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Does Theresa May understand what justice is?

October 23, 2013

Theresa May is the conservative candidate that may be set to replace David Cameron as head of the Conservative party should he lose the next general election. She is also the person responsible for signing off on those repugnant “go home” vans directed at immigrants, which as we all know were a tremendous success, inciting a whole 11 people to take heed and leave the country.

This party politics stuff puts me in a sticky position; if I don’t vote Conservative (I wasn’t planning to) and they don’t get into office, I would prefer that – but then if they get into office the term afterwards, they will be led by someone who I like even less. Such are the delightful options of the voting public.

May is the person who recently proposed that criminal refugees in this country should be deported during the appeals process, rather than afterwards, claiming that the costs of keeping them here is too high. The obvious problem with this is that it flies in the face of what we’ve generally decided is a human rights issue. What is the point of having an appeals process at all, if we are already deciding that they are guilty? For that is what we are deciding when we deport. May has an issue with harbouring criminals and paying for them to stay in this country, therefore she must have decided that refugees who are staying here are criminals before they have gone through the appeals process.

Never mind that they may well be sent back to a country where they could be killed for their alleged crimes, or horrifically persecuted in a way which they will not deserve whether they are guilty or not. There is a vital piece of information I am missing here, too: what laws are being broken – ours, or the laws of the refugee’s home country? I ask because if it is the latter, then that may mean that the people who are staying here and waiting on an appeal and a fair trial are political “criminals” – i.e., not really criminals at all. These can be important people in the fight for human rights and social justice, and to send them away will almost certainly mean death for them.

My concern with a fundamentalist approach to this issue, such as the one Theresa May is indicating, is that it is difficult to take into account these important details. In the interests of cutting costs, we lose the power of individual evaluation. All sorts of people who should be kept alive and safe could be sent somewhere where Britain has no power to intervene. There will be no way of knowing, because no one will bother with the investigation, nor would they be able to conduct it effectively from afar even if they did. If the default position for those waiting on appeal is deportation, there will be no motivation for taking personal circumstances into account. The necessity of this comes when you are working from a default position of not deporting, because then you have to navigate the minefield of complicated issues in order to calculate the correct usage of limited finances.

There is another issue afoot here, and that is the one of general British entitlement and preoccupation with it. Time and time again, I am faced with the petulant argument of “Why should we have to put up with them?” Who is “them”, exactly? Another human being, that’s all I see – the same rights, responsibilities, and indeed, faults. Consider Joland Giwa, who is a criminal from Nigeria who cannot be deported for some bureaucratic reason. All the arguments around deporting him are in this vein. Well, what have Nigeria done to deserve him? No one British person who rants and raves around immigrant criminals ever takes social responsibility for British ones, so it is a mystery to me why they think that, because Giwa was born in Nigeria, they are responsible for him.

The fact of the matter is that he’s here now. He’s a criminal here and a (purported) gang leader here. Pragmatically, we have to deal with him, however much we may whinge. Just wiping our hands of him is about as socially irresponsible as it gets; we a are a county much better suited to dealing with people like Giwa than Nigeria, where organised crime and corruption are worryingly rife. If Giwa is as dangerous as he likes to paint himself, his return to Nigeria may simply mean the death of a Nigerian, for which he may not be caught and prosecuted. That is very unlikely to happen here, which makes this country the better place for him. Thinking of it only in terms of Britain and the British is short sighted and parochial to a tediously familiar degree.

We can’t point the finger of blame at the place where he was born. It’s irrelevant, because the country you are born in (he arrived in Britain at the age of 10) is absolutely irrelevant to your behaviour. It would be prejudiced in the extreme to essentially say to Nigeria: “You are responsible. You made him this way. You deal with it.” But, we are not thinking about it from their side. The recipient of this man might as well be a dumping ground for all we think about their feelings on the matter. Until the same people who would readily deport a Nigerian criminal would also flap at the mouth about sending away law-breaking British nationals in a similarly callous and lazy way, I will consider their argument for deportation deeply inconsistent.

No one earns their right to live in a country. It’s a privilege which comes with the responsibility, and indeed the aggravation, of having to take into account people whom you’d rather have nothing to do with. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously and I can’t take seriously anyone who doesn’t. All arguments for deportation, no matter how marginally more eloquently phrased, will always only ever be a pitiful cry of “What about ME?!”

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