'Not me guv' is more and more the Government line. That's the shout by the culpable as they point to the fall guys they themselves had set up. Here it's our governors who put in place people to implement what they've made completely unworkable; whether it's the security industry to check the immigration status of their own workforce, or the outsourced firms to provide the necessary 'heavies' to 'remove' illegal immigrants -- and are now themselves in the news, apparently indeed for being 'heavy' (according to the Borders and Immigration Agency Complaints Audit Committee).
It does occur to the slightly cynical amongst us that this week's Home Office car crash turned pile-up is about to grow longer in the thick fog. Some of these maligned 'removals' men could well turn out to be of the very licensed but unchecked illegal migrants that is the main source of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's current troubles. After all, the firms involved certainly come under the 'security' umbrella.
Isn't immigration wonderful? A still more daft 'you couldn't make it up' story around every corner.
Nothing -- no aspect -- of the immigration and asylum system works, as the Home Office knows all too well. So they've palmed off whatever they can to maximise distance between themselves and the series of inevitable RTAs.
This last week they have been strongly pushing the line that the fault lies with employers, who are asked to check the immigration status of would-be employees, when the forged documents readily obtainable by illegal immigrants would pass muster with the Home Office's own staff -- because usually they have no forgery training, and couldn't even spot reproductions of their own paperwork. (Anyway, caseworkers are instructed not to check all of the supposedly required documentation, and are still subject to ceilings of very low refusal rates for applications, and consequently a large proportion of officially approved migrants are in fact illegals.) How are employers supposed to be able to do what is a Home Office function but which the Home Office can't manage itself?
But wait a minute. It's not the employers here. It's neither the employers nor Jacqui's lackeys. The checking was (supposed to be) done by a Home Office quango: the Security Industries Authority. 'Quasi autonomous' does have a certain Home Office ring to it -- as when the Immigration & Nationality Directorate was made 'semi-autonomous' from the Home Office and renamed the Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA). That is, for the benefit of the media it was towed out into the English Channel and ceremonially sunk. The beauty of a quango is that it's neither inside nor outside the tent. There's nobody on the outside to cause a fuss and spill the beans, yet nobody on the inside to get wet (to allude to Roosevelt's famous quip). It is the tent; part of it.
Regarding those 'heavies': the farce of 'removals' is a particular embarrassment the BIA is thankful to palm off. As ex-Immigration Service staff have revealed, a 'removal' is a purely administrative term and does not at all mean that someone has been excluded from the country. (This now applies even to the rarer from of exclusion: deportation. Removals and deportation officers tell me that many people who are down as deported are still walking the streets.)
Escorting unwilling subjects to unhappy commercial carriers is a thankless and often fruitless task that inevitably entails violence at times. Being hands-off and eyes averted not only keeps the Home Office free of the legal morass through alleged mistreatment such as hit the news this week, but hides behind sub-contractors not doing the job, the fraud of how 'removals' are recorded.
Employers have for some time been a convenient scapegoat. The fiasco of non-regulation of migrant workers was evident during the emergence of the scandal over those from soon-to-be EU states. Firms such as the one run by Victor and Jason Cox and another advised by Christopher Monckton (the former advisor to Margaret Thatcher) approached the Home Office because they were tired of having to field applications from illegals and wanted to be sure they were operating within the law. With agreement from the Home Office they recruited individuals with the relevant documentation, which they offered to send in, but this was declined. Next thing these firms knew were police raids. The Coxes are now in Maidstone jail serving seven year stretches. Why, when they only ever co-operated with the authorities?
They were an easy hit, to make the Home Office look like they're doing something about illegal migration. Just as with the girls 'rescued' in raids on massage parlours, most of whom turned out to be legal EU immigrants and none were 'trafficked' -- the ostensible purpose of the raids.
Evidently, beyond some thin PR the Government doesn't want to actually tackle illegal migrant employment, being content to ignore social consequences and side with less responsible business elements in a free-for-all. Just as it throws its hands in the air regarding expulsions. Both are not solvable given that every other aspect of the 'system' doesn't work.
The Home Secretary faced the music all on her own this week. In all the fiasco we haven't heard anything from the actual immigration minister -- and who's even heard of her? After Jacqui Smith's acrimonious divorce from any truth at the despatch box on Tuesday, she is now more completely hitched to her Department in being nothing if not a running joke. There will be new lows.
If the Government cannot tell us, give or take 700,000 or 800,000, even how many legal and officially working new migrants are here; then how can there be any handle at all on overall totals of arrivals in recent years? On top of the 1.5 or 1.6 million the Government finally admits to, there are all of the illegals, and then the majority of legitimate new entrants who don't work.
And you can bet that however revised are the figures for workers, it will still be a case of the wool being pulled over our eyes. Are those from new EU countries who haven't voluntarily registered included? And the self-employed? They certainly don't include those working in the black economy. And, of course, any figure doesn't include the dependents of workers. (And how do they count those who have fraudulently obtained National Insurance numbers? Or those who don't co-operate with surveys?)
Councils like that of Slough can claim 'I told you so'. And these questions have new resonance with the alarming projections of future population growth by 20 million we were given a week ago. The Government has no policy whatsoever on this.
We may well ask what if anything the Government does know, and what the Government is for. Well, a good kicking, as, inevitably, everyone wises up to the bigger picture of just what a disaster is UK immigration.
The problem is far bigger than just the scale of migration by those who have an above-board presence in the economy, and the impact they have on unemployment and wages (and that is serious enough: an EU study in 2003 showed that for every 100 new working migrants, 83 workers of the host community eventually lost their jobs; and most new entrants are usually earning so little that they are net tax-benefits takers). What about not just those who are in the hidden economy, but those who don't work -- the majority of new arrivals? But especially, what about those who shouldn't be here in Britain at all?
Until recently, discussion of the immigration disaster was sidelined by focus on the relatively small problem of asylum -- everything indeed is relative, as they say. Even at its height, when new claimants were coming in at close to 100,000 annually, this was but a fraction of even official migration rates. Now focus is on legal and working migrants, but this is to ignore not just the fact that four out of every five legitimate migrants come here not primarily to work, but the huge, unquantified number who come here illegally.
This last is the big bogey for the Government, because so far it hasn't dared even to make a proper guess. There IS a guess, but it's a deliberately useless one. This is the mantra-like 600,000 tossed forth; usually with a 'health warning' that it's an upper estimate. This figure is laughably low. It's a guess of the number of illegals compared to legals at the end of the last century, before the massive rises in annual inflows under Labour. And, as usual, it doesn't even include non-workers or dependents. What's more, it's based on a hopeless international comparison that produces a figure for Britain of only a fraction of what it must be.