Sketch: Theresa May finds herself in a hostile environment

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 20 April 2018 in Comment

Let he who has never accidentally deported someone after destroying all record of their citizenship throw the first stone

Image credit: Iain Green

If George Osborne’s 2012 budget was an omnishambles, it’s probably fair to say the last year has seen the UK enter the realm of perma-farce. That’s certainly the feeling to emerge from the Windrush scandal, anyway.

Let’s recap. The UK invited Commonwealth citizens to start new lives in the country 70 years ago, before trying to deport them, against their will, despite the fact they have the right to stay.

The Home Office, meanwhile, says it has no idea how many people it has already deported, while also admitting it destroyed thousands of people’s landing card records years ago, despite needing them to prove their immigration status.

 

If that’s hard to get your head around, it’s because it makes no sense. Having taken back control, nothing can apparently stand in the way of the UK deporting its own people.

That probably sounds like a joke, and to be honest, it was originally meant as one, but as ever with a government that seems to view its relationship with satire in much the same way that NASA viewed the Soviet Union during the space race, it’s always worth checking. And it’s here that things get more confusing, with the news that the UK Government had actually produced a guide, entitled ‘Coming Home to Jamaica’, which suggested people should “try to be ‘Jamaican’” by using “local accents and dialect” upon arrival.

Actually, the whole concept of releasing the guide seemed a bit problematic, given that if the people the Home Office was deporting were able to call Jamaica home then they probably wouldn’t need a guide to it in the first place. But, on the other hand, it also came with a DVD.

“Deportation,” it explains, “is not a sentence or punishment but a second chance to build a new life and make a meaningful contribution to build the nation.”

A second chance, huh? Well, who wouldn’t want a second chance? The answer, it seems, is anyone who isn’t done with their first one. Looking on the bright side is one thing, but this was closer to looking on a side only visible with a potent cocktail of hallucinatory drugs.

At least, it did sound a bit like something Stalin would say. But there are still helpful bits, including contact details for emergency accommodation, night shelters and the Salvation Army in Jamaica, presumably for those who, upon returning ‘home’, decided not to stay in one.

Yet still, the naysayers found something to criticise. Well, it was mainly the deportations. And so Theresa May was forced to apologise to Caribbean leaders, telling them she was “genuinely sorry” for the anxiety caused by the Home Office’s decision. It was all a terrible mistake, she explained, adding that UK Government “valued” the contribution made by those who settled in the UK in the 60s.

Now obviously, on the face of it, that’s quite a confusing statement. After all, most people wouldn’t identify people they valued and then demonstrate it by sending them half way around the world, away from their home, against their will.

But maybe that’s how May treats everyone and everything she values. After all, if you love something, you have to let it leave. Or in this, case, deport it without warning.

It’s probably a matter of time until she sends her own family into exile. For all we know, her personal valuables are scattered around the world, buried underground like a pirate buries treasure.

But the meeting must have been an awkward one, with May explaining she had agreed to talk with Commonwealth heads of government, days after reports suggested she had refused to see them, in order to “dispel any impression that my government is in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens”.

But, let’s be honest here, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Theresa May. After all, a Prime Minister can’t be on top of every single little thing their government is doing – whether that’s the minutiae of education policy, changes to obscure environmental regulations, or its ongoing attempts to deport its own citizens for no reason at all. It could happen to anyone. As the Bible teaches, let he who has never accidentally deported someone after destroying all record of their citizenship throw the first stone.

No, it’s not fair to blame Theresa May. The real blame should go to whoever created the policy, which it turns out was a previous Home Secretary, at a time when May wasn’t even Prime Minister. And that Home Secretary was called Theresa May. No doubt Prime Minister Theresa May will have some very strong words for former Home Secretary Theresa May.

So yes, it’s messy. Lots of people have woken up after a night out and cursed the decision-making of their past selves, and is this really so different? Admittedly, regret would usually revolve around a hangover, rather than a draconian clampdown on a state’s citizens. That would be quite the night out.

But at least the Home Office is trying to fix things, because clearly something needs to be done. As the ‘returning home’ guide says, “Getting national identification is critical to resettling in Jamaica”. Indeed, without it, you would probably face deportation.

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