Issues in Immigration

I woke today and thought I would write about internet dating when I learnt that in America (where else) a Democratic candidate was using Tinder to access voters, and hopefully persuade them to vote for him. He said he was following the lead of the Labour party in the UK who used this tactic at the last General Election. That was news to me and just a little too silly to reflect on.

I needed a topic with a bit more substance and as always President Trump and EC leadership gave me a way out.

After trying to arrest and repatriate illegal immigrants into the US, President Trump found he was splitting families and detaining minors. He recanted and is back now to something like the Obama policy. EC leaders have a meeting this weekend to get a European policy together with boats, loaded with would be immigrants lined up on the Libyan coast.

There is a very good reason why we should do something to promote immigration and that is compassion. Any immigrants escaping a war zone needs help. If you are a Syrian family or a Palestinian looking to survive you should be welcomed anywhere.

But, immigration is a hugely complex issue and there are at least 3 arguments used to justify restrictions.

First, there is the simple question if the recipient country can absorb more people. There is only so much land and there are limited resources. This is a real consideration in a society that is already stretched. Can the schools manage? Will the health service cope? However, history in the UK suggests that immigrants have in general been a net contributor to the economy. Certainly, there are sectors in the UK that rely on immigrant workers: the NHS and agriculture are two.

Secondly, there is the argument that an influx of immigrants dilutes national identity. Yesterday, I watched an interview with the Hungarian Foreign Minister defending his Government’s new policy to restrict immigration. He argued that Hungary would always be a country for Hungarians.  It is important that this argument is always refuted. National identities are forever changing, and the stereotypes modified. All national identities need to change, develop and grow. Appropriate immigration can be the right catalyst. On the other hand, I understand the concern that it doesn’t happen too quickly and is controlled. Over generations this very issue has started wars.

Third, there is the simple issue of racism. The argument, although rarely fully expounded because it is so repugnant, is that we don’t want immigrants because they are the wrong colour, have the wrong sexual orientation or are the wrong religion. I can have no truck with that and I hope you don’t feel I need to explain the awfulness of this white supremacist argument.

EU leaders are meeting this weekend to try and work out their unified policy, but an agreement is looking unlikely. Italy has elected a new government committed to clamping down on immigration. Hungary has built a huge wall on its Southern border and passed new harsh laws. We may not like what they are doing but Italy, like Greece and Hungary is at the front line and getting little support. Italy may have refused to let a ship of immigrants come into an Italian port but few reporting this news add that already this year over 16,000 migrants have landed by sea in Italy.

These arguments are important to me because towards the end of summer, with my move to Ukraine, I will be an immigrant. Ukrainian immigration laws mean that on a simple tourist visa I can stay with Sasha for any 90 days in 180. Simply, if I go there for 3 months I need to come back to the UK for the next three.

The alternative is to acquire a long-term resident’s visa. It is expensive but the only real option. The commitment will be real because the visa will be based on uniting me with my wife. That’s right. Before the visa is issued Sasha and I need to be married.

I have worked and lived overseas for much of my life and I hope each time I have contributed my own little bit to the recipient country. So, I am not going to draw to a conclusion on the wider issues facing Europe, USA and the UK. They have to reach their own decision and so long as there is nothing racist and the focus is on economic viability I will understand.

I hope Ukraine treat me just the same.

A Visa to Visit

If you want a job done, then ask a busy man! It all feels a bit like that today. Away in Kiev, there was always something to do, we were always busy and yet still I found time to write. The quality may have dropped just a little with all the pressure, but everything got done.

Now I am back home. The case has been unpacked. The mail has all been opened and whatever required an answer has been answered and now I can concentrate again on my writing but it so difficult to get going again.

Somehow you feel that while you are away for a week everything will have changed and that the news channels need to be scoured and searched. Of course, nothing is any different. The world has gone on its way and just because I wasn’t watching it hasn’t taken a 90 degree turn into oblivion. Even the winter Olympics aren’t much of an attraction except for the curling which is fascinating for a totally inexplicable reason.

Neither President Trump or Prime Minister May thought to do something unexpected and make a wonderful surprise for Gerry when he came back to the UK.

Brexit was again in the news and produced one of the more comical prospects of a Brexit dream team (not my description) of Johnson. Gove and Rees-Mogg. As an idea, there is little more ludicrous and so in the way of modern politics, we can assume that it will happen, and I will have to report the news of about Prime Minister Johnson.

Immigration control is at the heart of many of the Brexiteers and with my thoughts, invariably, still in Kiev it is an issue.  I don’t need a visa to enter Ukraine, but Sasha needs one to enter the UK although she can get into the Schengen area without one. We can meet easily in Paris but not London. These thoughts took me back to my conversation with the vet who sat next to me on the return flight.

We sat in silence for all but the last fifteen minutes of the journey. We were both working. It was a conversation started as much out of politeness but as Sasha would tell you I do have a problem not talking to strangers.

After the normal small chat, I was saying that Sasha and I had started working on her visa to the UK to travel and come and visit both me and her sister who also lives in the UK. It was at that point that my fellow traveller’s eyes rolled a little and she started to tell me about the UK immigration control in Kiev.

My new friend told me how difficult it was to get her visa. Even though she was by now already married it was not easy for her. They had to produce ‘evidence’, which in her case were all the letters they had shared (still retained and never returned), to prove that they had a proper relationship.

The questioning was intrusive. She is a few years older than her husband and at one time she was taken aside and asked why she would want to marry a man younger than herself. What was her true motive? Taken aback all she could say was the very obvious, ‘because I love him.’

With perseverance, answering every question, waiting two years, finally they married, and she now has a family and a British passport.

It makes me think, hopefully, of the day when Sasha and I go through this process and the preparations I could make now. We have many hundreds of thousands of words in the letters we share and maybe I should start to collect them all together into one book in yearly volumes. I quite like the idea of arriving at immigration and landing on their desks five volumes of beautifully bound volumes of correspondence.

Of course, when a couple are separated by 3000 miles and meet nothing like as often than they want, the letters cover a wide range of topics. There is the usual mix of relationship administration fixing and planning for trips. Then there is the day to day news to be reported. There are words of love reminding each other that our love is real and permanent and finally there are the naughty and erotic passages.

I am starting to enjoy the thought of immigration officers reading all we have written. I might even take out all the R rated sections into their own volumes!!

However, the bigger issue is that getting entry into the UK is not the easy path that some seem to think that it is.

Brexiteers take note. There is a misconception that anyone who wants to come here can just wander in. It is far from the truth. Even a visitor visa requires all sorts of machinations.

Once the rules are set our immigration officials do their very best to make sure they are followed. In fact, they go further. They positively discourage entry to the UK.