Majority pay for sins of minority

 By R. Nadeswaran, The Sun

THE young man being interviewed by the Immigration Officer at the airport produces a “Certificate of Completion” in Information Technology and a “Letter of Acceptance” from a local college to complete a “Diploma”.

He is asked: “What subjects did you do during your first year?”

“I can’t remember.”

“Where did you attend the classes?”

“I can’t remember.”

“In which street was your college situated?”

“I can’t remember.”

“You said you did IT. What does URL stand for?”

“I can’t remember.”

“What does www stand for?”

“I can’t remember.”

Those who watch the re-runs of TV documentaries on the UK’s Border Agency will be familiar with the dialogue above. Despite having been issued a student visa by the agency in Pakistan, the “student” was scrutinised on arrival at Heathrow and refused entry. Subsequent investigations revealed that he had been working as a mini-cab driver in Luton.

Then, there was the case of a member of a Nigerian Youth Volleyball team who came to UK on a six-month visa and stayed on for seven years before he was arrested and deported. Every episode of the series shows how the various dubious means and guises many go to end up in the UK. Sham marriages, bogus bank statements, falsified academic qualifications and even admission letters are caught by the expert eye of the authorities.

If previously, such acts of deception were mainly carried out by those from the Indian sub-continent, Africa and China, now Malaysians can claim membership to this club.

The statistics speak for themselves.

» It is estimated that there are about 20,000 Malaysians living in the UK illegally.

» In 2009, Malaysian nationals accounted for 2% of all persons held in detention in the UK solely for immigration offences.

» Three hundred and seventy Malaysian nationals were deported in 2009 for committing immigration offences including working while on tourist visas.

The figures for 2010 have not been collated but we have been told that two Malaysians were deported every week last year. In 2009, Malaysia was put on the same ranks as China and Brazil, and was subject to a Visa Waiver Test to maintain its visa-free status for its citizens visiting the UK. Currently, Malaysians do not require a visa to visit the UK but it is illegal for them to work in the UK if they are visiting or to stay longer than six months without permission. We still maintain the visa-free status but for how long?

Last week, the Border Agency announced the arrest of over 200 illegal workers including 11 Malaysian nationals in a series of raids as part of a nationwide operation to tackle immigration crime.

Steps have been taken to deport them as they were either working in breach of their visas, or overstaying their visas and working illegally. Those deported cannot re-enter UK for 10 years. Even Malaysians with a valid student visa can only work up to 20 hours a week during term time and anyone exceeding this limit can have his or her visa revoked.

Instead of getting the stipulated minimum wage of £5.80 an hour, many of the illegal workers get less than £4 and they do not enjoy insurance or medical benefits. Some of them work long hours, sometimes as much as 16 hours a day.

Damian Green, the UK immigration minister, says that illegal immigration puts huge pressure on the public purse at a time when the country can least afford it. With the cut on allocations for health, education and social services, there is resentment from the local populace as well. The National Health Service is bursting at its seams and students are protesting against the lift in the ceiling for university fees. With all these, the chances for anyone trying to cheat the system are almost zero because the activities of foreigners are often reported to the authorities.

In a statement, he said: “UK Border Agency officers across the country have carried out a major enforcement crackdown which has generated a large number of arrests, cash seizures and prosecutions. It has also brought fresh intelligence which the agency is using to further disrupt the activities of people involved in immigration crime.

Together with the police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency we will continue to make life as difficult as possible for those who to cheat the immigration system.”

The activities of this small minority will affect all Malaysians. We could be put on the “watch list” once again and it will make it difficult for genuine tourists and visitors, who have no intention of overstaying or breaking the law.