The Sunday Times, Uncategorized

January 28th, 2007

Tragedy of the truthful immigrant

Compare and contrast, as exam papers used to say, the cases of Mark Coleman and Roberto Malasi. Both are young men from Africa who wish to live permanently in this country, but there the similarity stops. Otherwise they are as different as one could possibly imagine. One young man is law-abiding, willing to work if allowed to do so and has never claimed benefits. The other has led the sort of hellish and destructive life in Britain that makes people fear not only for themselves but for wider society. He has robbed and shot one young woman to death and stabbed and killed another. Guess which man is to be deported immediately and which will be staying.

Each of their stories is bad enough in itself; in conjunction, as they were last week, they are scandalous. On Thursday it emerged that Coleman has been told by the Home Office that he must return immediately to his native Zimbabwe. His applications to extend his visa, and later for asylum, have failed and if he does not go at once his removal may be “enforced”.

One could normally count on Home Office incompetence to spare him this fate, but Coleman’s problem is that by abiding by the law and reporting to a police station every two weeks and generally making his whereabouts known to the authorities, he has made things easy for them. He has not disappeared into the undergrowth. As usual no virtuous deed goes unpunished. Obeying the rules has made him easy to find. Unless someone intervenes he will be sent back to the hellhole that is Zimbabwe, where he no longer has any work or any family; they have all fled the Mugabe terror.

What makes this case particularly absurd is that Coleman is British, by any standards except those of the Home Office regulations. Although he was born in independent Zimbabwe, his father was born there while it was still the British colony of Southern Rhodesia and his mother was born in India; his father’s father was a British subject. His paternal great-grandfather was a British army surgeon, as was his maternal great-grandfather.

His mother’s family has been English since 1160 and her father served in the British Army and worked as a prisoner of war on the notorious bridge over the River Kwai. It is hard to imagine anyone more British in spirit and in fact, yet, because of a technicality, Coleman cannot have a British passport, cannot stay here and will soon be shipped back.

Not only does he have some historical claim on this country, he also has a compassionate claim; nobody can possibly imagine that a white man, whose family has fled, can live or work safely in Zimbabwe, in that nightmare of mayhem, anti-white racism and confiscation.

Rules are rules, admittedly, and hard cases make bad rules as well as bad law. But there is something sickening about the double standards with which this man is having the rules applied to him. We all know something of countless cases of immigrants and asylum seekers who flout the rules and break the law; they are literally countless, because the Home Office simply cannot count them. On Monday Sir David Normington, the senior civil servant at the Home Office, disclosed to MPs that one in five (30 out of 160) sets of figures covering crime, immigration and prisons is not, in a ghastly establishment euphemism, “up to scratch”, which is to say not fit for purpose.

In this depressing context consider the case of Roberto Malasi, the robber and convicted murderer. He and his family came to Britain in 1995, seeking asylum from Angola, and in 1999 they were given indefinite leave to remain here. Now 18, when he was 16 he shot dead a woman holding a baby at a christening, while robbing the guests with his younger brother; he escaped, went on the run boasting about this killing and soon afterwards stabbed to death a girl he thought had “dissed” him.

Before these crimes he was in and out of care, got little or no education and lived what police call a chaotic life. He will be sentenced for the killings next month and faces a long time in prison. He does not, however, seem to face deportation, much to the resentment of his victims’ families, also recent arrivals from Africa. His lawyers are likely to argue that Malasi would be subject to persecution as a notorious murderer if he were sent back to Angola. On past form they are quite likely to succeed where Coleman failed — even though it is his crime that would supposedly endanger Malasi.

When I called to check some facts, the Home Office would not comment on either case. I am not sure why — these cases are surely in the public interest — but we do know that the Home Office finds it difficult to keep “up to scratch” with checking things, which is why it has so little idea of how many illegal immigrants or returned criminals or escaped convicts are in our midst.

However, it was happy to explain that people such as Malasi who have been granted indefinite leave to remain can have that leave revoked if the home secretary does not feel that their remaining is conducive to the public good. In so far as there can be any certainties in life, it seems certain to me that Malasi’s presence here is not conducive to the public good.

Comparing and contrasting these two cases, and considering the home secretary’s wide discretion in such matters, not to mention the Home Office’s ability to “lose” people (which might be put diplomatically to good use in Coleman’s case), it’s clear that one man should be thrown out and one should be allowed to stay. And if, as I suspect, the wrong man gets thrown out, one will be able to conclude only that the Home Office is not merely incompetent, but also institutionally unjust.

There is a way out for Coleman: he could pretend to be gay and, as Zimbabwe is notorious for persecuting homosexuals, he would have an excellent case for asylum. I am sure he could find a gay friend to help him go through this charade. However, that would involve lying; a corrupt result of a degenerate system. It will be quite legal if Coleman goes and Malasi stays, but the comparison highlights the blindness and chaos of our immigration law and our immigration system and the muddled, guilt-ridden attitudes that underpin them.