A Happy Ending For The Ghurkhas? Think Again!

(Nick Cohen) – A CULTURE THAT PREFERS FAST FOOD to home-cooked meals and Twenty20 cricket to five-day Tests cannot endure the long haul of political struggle. Boredom sets in. Fickle eyes flick away. “Been there, done that,” we say, a crass cliché at the best of times that turns delusional when we apply it to a political world in which very few causes are done within a decade, let alone a news cycle.

For those who like their gratification instant, no story appeared more satisfying than the campaign to give Ghurkha soldiers the right to settle in Britain. The plot was so pat Richard Curtis could have directed it. A legal action, initiated by London solicitors Howe & Co, to compel the government to grant residency rights to some of the 36,000 soldiers who had retired before 1997 provided the back-story. The audience joined the action in April last year, when Nick Clegg demanded that Parliament do what the judges could not. He thundered at Gordon Brown: “If someone is prepared to die for this country, surely they deserve to live in this country?” David Cameron said the same, but Brown failed to listen or understand the public mood.

Even voters who denounced immigration were on the Ghurkhas’ side, reasoning that if Britain let in people who hated it, the government should not bar those who had fought for it. In Joanna Lumley, the Ghurkhas had a formidable champion. The daughter of Major James Lumley of the 6th Ghurkha Rifles served her family’s regiment well by confronting Phil Woolas, Labour’s immigration minister, at the BBC. She was glamorous and filled with righteous anger. She looked down on Woolas, a careworn and equivocating politician in an ill-fitting suit, and wiped the floor with him.

Her commanding performance was too much. Labour, whose back-benchers had already mutinied, gave in. It decided to do the decent thing and open a Ghurkha settlement office in Nepal. Its staff provide advice to often elderly men on managing the move to Britain, give them National Insurance numbers so that they can find work or claim benefits and help them fill visa application forms. All free of charge.

In the final scene, the victorious Lumley flew to Kathmandu where members of the Ghurkha Army Ex-Servicemen’s Organisation (Gaeso) cheered her until they were hoarse.

As far as the media and the public were concerned, the movie ended there. For Dr Hugh Milroy from the London-based charity Veterans’ Aid, the drama is just beginning. He is a battle-hardened officer, but nothing he has seen has prepared him for the homeless men who are arriving at his door. One Ghurkha, just off the plane, was mentally ill and could not speak English. His possessions consisted of two flea-ridden blankets and an equally lousy jacket with pockets stuffed with dog ends. He didn’t know where he was or what to do; in the end, Milroy and his colleagues had to find the money to send him home.

Milroy fears he will soon be overwhelmed by old soldiers. They have not gone to the resettlement centre for free advice. Instead, they have listened to middlemen, who are anxious to fill their pockets with a currency more valuable than dog ends. “I am deeply concerned,” he told me. “It is clear to us that if people who have never opened a bank account or dealt with our welfare bureaucracy do not go through the MoD resettlement service they will not be prepared for life in a strange land. It is utterly immoral. I’ve nothing against Joanna, but we’re seeing unintended consequences and exploitation.”

In Nepal, rival veterans’ groups are accusing Gaeso of doing the exploiting. No one disputes that it asks each veteran to give £500 for help the British government is offering for nothing, before sending him to see advisers from the UK law firms who have come to Nepal, including advisers from Howe & Co. Its lawyers told me they did not take money from Ghurkhas, but claimed the fees for the 1,500 people they have advised to date from the British taxpayer. Gaeso insists that the payments it asks for before the men talk to Howe & Co are “voluntary, not compulsory”.

£500 may not seem an inflated sum to readers from a rich country. But Nepal is poverty-stricken and still recovering from a civil war between monarchists and Maoists. When Ghurkhas add the cost of the “voluntary contribution” to the £500 they must pay for a British settlement visa and £400 for the airfare, many find they must sell their homes and land.

On Tuesday, the Commons home affairs committee will hear from Tim Heaver, a solicitor, who married the widow of a Ghurkha soldier and has seen middlemen take the money of his wife’s family. “Guys are putting themselves in debt who are little old men,” he said. “They give up everything to get here because they are told they will have the good life and find no work and long delays for benefits.”

A media and public that claimed to care so much about Ghurkhas in 2009 ought to be asking how they are managing in 2010. Relevant questions should include whether the Foreign Office should investigate if smart operators are relieving Ghurkhas of their money, whether charities such as Veterans’ Aid deserve public support and whether we should insist that only ex-servicemen who have received free and frank advice from British officials should come here. (The answer to all of them is “yes”, by the way.)

But the circus has moved on. With the exception of Sue Reid of the Mail, no journalist has shown the smallest interest in what happened to the Ghurkhas next, while Clegg and Cameron have found new distractions to stop the fickle viewers reaching for the remote control. The task of preventing a small outbreak of suffering on British streets has been left to Labour MPs. Backbenchers such as Martin Salter, who led the revolt against the government and is organising the home affairs committee hearings, are co-operating with Woolas and Kevan Jones, the defence minister, who wanted to maintain the status quo. Although they were once on different sides, they can sense trouble coming and believe they have a duty to alleviate it.

We will miss these unfashionable men in ill-fitting suits when we throw them out in May. Assuming we do throw them out, that is.

Woolas Admits Even His Children Have Suffered From Immigration

(Telegraph) – PHIL WOOLAS, the immigration minister, has admitted even his own children and family have “suffered” because of the impacts of his Government’s immigration policies.

Mr Woolas, who has two boys of school age, accepted that the sudden influx of large numbers of people had had an effect on communities after being confronted by an unemployed man on BBC’s Newsnight.

He went on to admit: “My own family, my children, have suffered from that and we recognise that point …”

Asked what he meant, he added only: “Well, if you get, as the gentleman says, if you get a big influx of people coming into an area, Slough Council, Peterborough Council, have raised this point, that is the price you pay.”

He refused to expand on his comments yesterday and it remains unclear whether he means his children have suffered as a result of pressure on schools or communities in general.

He is the latest Labour minister to accept immigration has impacted on towns and cities but

In December, Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, said immigration had “cost” parts of Britain, impacting on jobs, wages and even family ties.

That came a week after Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said the Government had been inept over immigration, which had impacted on communities.

Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, said: “There is no question that immigration has put huge pressure on our public services. How can a Minister defend a policy that he admits his own family has suffered from?”

Foreigners Granted Citizenship At Record High

(Telegraph) – THE NUMBER OF FOREIGNERS being handed a British passport has hit record levels fuelling claims of an open door on immigration.

A total of 203,865 people were granted British citizenship last year – the equivalent of one every three minutes and a 58 per cent jump on the previous year.

Almost another 200,000 migrants were granted settlement after a 30 per cent rise meaning they can stay indefinitely but are not British citizens.

The sharp rise in citizenship will in part have been due to migrants rushing applications in ahead of new rules next year that will make it harder and longer to earn a British passport.

But it will also be seen as a result of Labour’s relaxed immigration policies over the last decade just two weeks after the Government was accused of pursuing a secret policy of encouraging mass immigration for its own political ends.

The release of a previously unseen document suggested that Labour’s migration policy over the past decade had been aimed not just at meeting the country’s economic needs, but also the Government’s “social objectives”.

It is the first time annual grants of citizenship have past the 200,000 mark and it dwarfs the previous high of 164,635 in 2007.

It is also more than five times the 37,010 approvals in 1997 when Labour took power and means more than 1.5 million foreigners have been handed a British passport in the intervening period.

In 2008, Jacqui Smith, the then Home Secretary, said those who settle here should apply for citizenship rather than ‘languish in limbo’ by living here but not adapting to the British way of life.

Next summer a new regime of “probationary citizenship” comes in to effect which means migrants may have to be in the country for up to eight years before being granted a passport, instead of the current five years. They will also have to accrue points under the new system by demonstrating they are of benefit or active in the community or have skills it needs.

Of the separate grants of settlement, those linked to jobs rose from 37,000 in 2007 to more than 60,000 in 2008 and 81,000 last year – despite the recession.

The quarterly immigration figures published by the Office for National Statistics, also showed a 30 per cent increase in student visa numbers last year compared to 2008.

In the final three months of 2009, 61,715 student visas were issued – an astonishing rise of 92 per cent on the same period in 2008 – while throughout the year a record 273,610 student visas were issued.

The figures will renew questions over the regime, which critics claim is being abused by illegal immigrants, criminals and potential terrorists.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “These are the last immigration figures before a General Election and it is now clear that immigration has been running out of control throughout the lifetime of this Government.

“Even in a recession with more than two million unemployed the number of work visas issued is going up. So much for British jobs for British workers.”

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “Public confidence and trust in the migration system has been shattered by decades of mismanagement.”

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “Asylum applications for the last three months of 2009 were the lowest since the early 1990s.

“Net migration is down, and the new UK Border Agency is increasingly successful.”

“Our border has never been stronger, as shown by the fall in the number of asylum applications.

“Our new flexible points-based system also gives us greater control over those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain need can come.”

Somali Woman With No Right To Live In The UK Must Be Given A Council House, According To EU Judges

Nimco Hassan Ibrahim - with her 36" TV

(Telegraph) – A SOMALI WOMAN WITH CHILDREN IN UK SCHOOLS is entitled to state benefits, even if she is “a burden on the social assistance system”, EU judges ruled yesterday.

Nimco Hassan Ibrahim, who has four children, was told she must be given a council house because she was once married to a Danish citizen who briefly worked in Britain.

A verdict in Luxembourg said parents caring for the children of migrant workers, and resident in EU countries are covered under EU rules on freedom of movement – including those who cannot support themselves.

Ms Ibrahim, a Somali national who separated from her Danish husband and is entirely dependent on UK welfare payments, was initially turned down for housing assistance – a decision which she then appealed.

Ms Ibrahim, who is currently living in temporary accommodation in Harrow, told the Daily Mail: “I deserve to be given a proper house. This one is too small for all of us.

“I don’t think it’s fair that the council has put us up in temporary accommodation. All these threats of eviction have made me feel very ill. The law says that I can get a better house so I’m looking forward to a better life.”

Ms Ibrahim arrived in the UK in 2003 to join her husband, named in court as Mr Yusuf.

The couple have four children of Danish nationality, the fourth of whom was born in the UK. Two are in UK state schools.

After working in the UK for five months, Mr Yusuf claimed incapacity benefit, and left the country after being declared fit for work in March 2004. He then “ceased to satisfy the conditions for lawful residence” in the UK, said the judgment.

Ms Ibrahim remained in the UK, separated from her husband, and, said the court, “was never self-sufficient, and depends entirely on social assistance”.

“She does not have comprehensive sickness insurance cover and relies on the National Health Service,” the judgment added.

Her application for housing assistance for herself and her children was rejected on the ground that only people with a right of residence under EU law could apply, and neither she not Mr Yusuf were by then considered resident in the UK under EU law.

Today’s judgment said: “A parent caring for the child of a migrant worker who is in education in the host Member State has a right of residence in that State.

“That right is not conditional on the parent having sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social assistance system.”

EU rules say that members of the family of a migrant worker who is a national of one EU country and employed in another have residency rights with that worker, whatever their nationality – a right that continues even if the migrant worker no longer lives or works there.

The Home Office said it was studying the potential impact of the judgment this afternoon.

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “We are disappointed with today’s ruling. We will now consider closely the European Court judgments and their implications.”

Harrow Council, the local authority to which Ms Ibrahim applied for housing benefit, slammed the verdict as a potential “floodgates judgment” opening the way for state support for people who had put nothing into the country.

Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane said: “We are now seeing a European Court determining British immigration policy.”

He said: “We are very concerned with this outcome, as it appears to establish a major new legal precedent over benefit claims.

“Harrow Council is studying the full implications of the ruling, but it could well prove to be a floodgates judgment in that people who have not yet contributed to this country or who do not have the means to sustain themselves can now seek immediate help from state welfare services.”

Labour’s Secret Plot To Make A Multicultural UK

(Telegraph) – HERE, at last, is the truth of what the Government really thought about immigration but never dared tell the electorate.

This Government has presided over the biggest inflow of immigrants in our history. In the past 12 years, three million immigrants have made the United Kingdom their home. Our society has been transformed and that transformation will continue. In 2008, a quarter of all births in England and Wales were to foreign-born mothers: in London, it was half. Our population, boosted by this immigration, is expected to reach 70 million by the middle of the century, and many towns in England (already the fifth most densely populated large country on the planet) are experiencing immense pressures on housing and welfare services as a consequence.

It has become commonplace to attribute all this to a catastrophic failure of policy by a Government that simply lost control of our borders. Now we learn that, to the contrary, it was all part of a plan – albeit a secret one – to change the social fabric of this country and make it, in the words of one official involved, “truly multicultural”. A policy document written in 2000 was so incendiary that it had to be bowdlerised before publication. The Migrationwatch think tank has, under a Freedom of Information request, obtained the unexpurgated original. It reveals Labour’s real agenda just as the floodgates were opening. The document notes that migration pressures would intensify, “but this should not be viewed as a negative”; trying to stem the flow would anyway “be very difficult (perhaps impossible)”; the Government had “both economic and social objectives for immigration policy”; the benefits included “a widening of consumer choice and significant cultural contributions”; entry controls, on the other hand, “can contribute to social exclusion”; and, most devastating of all, the previous policy of curbing immigration had “no economic or social justification”.

Here, at last, is the truth of what the Government really thought about immigration but never dared tell the electorate. There was also, for Labour, a handy political spin-off. Research by the Electoral Commission into the 2005 general election showed immigrants voted for Labour by overwhelming margins. Very convenient.

This explains why Opposition politicians who dared raise the issue were howled down by Labour for “playing the race card”. After these revelations, that must not happen in this year’s election – Tories, take note. This whole shameful episode has now come back to haunt Labour, for it is their MPs who are at risk from the resurgent popularity of the BNP among white working-class voters. That is their problem; the strain imposed on our social fabric by this duplicitous policy is ours.

The Town Where Pupils Speak 150 Languages

(Daily Mail) – SCHOOLS IN JUST ONE TOWN are having to cope with pupils who speak 150 different languages, a survey has found.

They range from the Ghanaian dialect of Akan, through the African language of Chichewa and the ancient Aztec tongue of Nahuatl to the Indian language of Telugu.

This is as well as the more common foreign languages of Urdu, Punjabi and Polish.

The survey in Reading, Berkshire, shows how schools are being put under mounting pressure by the rising levels of pupils who do not speak English as their first language.

In a bid to ease the burden, Reading Borough Council, is offering discounted English lessons for both children and adults.

The aim is to get children, whose command of English is often much better, to help their families learn it.

Lesley Reilly, head of adult learning at the authority, said: ‘Our aim is to involve stakeholders in community groups across the town to encourage people to join the English classes.

‘Our target is to reach more men, unemployed people, learners recently arrived in Reading and parents of primary pupils.’

The classes are being run as part of English for Speakers of Other Languages, a government initiative to encourage people to integrate in the community.

The Government described the number of languages and dialects spoken by pupils in Reading as ‘extraordinary’ and conceded that it would place schools under extra pressure.

The figures suggest that language barriers are making it increasingly difficult for teachers to communicate with their pupils.

It was revealed in 2005 that pupils at Woodside High School in Tottenham, north London, spoke as many as 58 languages, with many arriving at the comprehensive unable to speak any English.

Pupils at a primary school in the West Midlands were found to speak 33 different languages in 2003.

Conservative MP Philip Davies said: ‘It’s very worrying and Labour’s lax immigration policies are a huge factor in this.

‘It is also a result of political correctness. We haven’t really made people integrate properly into British society.’

1.3M NHI Numbers Given To Foreign Workers Since PM’s ‘British jobs for British workers’ Pledge

(Telegraph) – MORE THAN 1.3 million national insurance numbers have been given to foreign workers in the two years since Gordon Brown’s controversial “British Jobs for British Workers” pledge.

Between July 2007 and June 2009, 1,370,820 NI numbers were allocated to foreign workers , the Department of Work and Pensions figures disclosed.

This was despite the country being mired in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Critics said the figures, obtained by the Tories, were part of mounting evidence that Mr Brown had failed to protect the jobs of British workers over foreign nationals.

Shortly before taking office in the summer of 2007, Mr Brown made the commitment, which was then repeated during his first party conference speech in September that year.

“This is yet another example of the chaos within the immigration system,” Baroness Warsi, the Tory communities spokeswoman, said.

“These figures show that all the tough talk about protecting British jobs was just hot air.

“We can’t go on like this. We must bring immigration under control, and improve the education and training of British workers.”

National Insurance numbers can be issued for a number of reasons.

They are needed to work legally in the UK – but are also required to claim benefits.

Whitehall figures show the number of foreign-born workers has risen by 22,000 while at the same time, the number of British-born employees has slumped by 625,000.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas told the Daily Express: “We recognise the benefit to our economy and culture from immigration.

“We’re also very clear that it needs to be controlled.”

Work and Pensions Minister Angela Eagle added: “These national insurance numbers include people coming to study and to do part-time work, and many have subsequently returned home.”