Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Knee Jerk Reactions

I am in the process of trying to compose a considered post on the knee-jerk xenophobia which has been whipped up by the Home Office's incompetence in which it allowed the issue of considering the deportation of foreign prisoners to become entwined with the question of excluding failed asylum seekers and stopping ex-prisoners from claiming asylum. However, events keep overtaking me, such as Blair's pandering to the xenophobic gallery by pledging immediate deportation of foreign prisoners convicted of serious crimes at PMQs today (I am fed up with hearing the stock response to government failings: let's have tougher laws in the future) and now the story of Ernesto Leal, whose family came to the UK as political refugees from Chile in the 1970s, and who has lived in the UK for 30 years, including his entire adult life. I picked this up via Garry, but I am also pleased to see it has been taken up quite energetically in The Herald (editorial).

No one condones the commission of the crime of GBH by Leal, for which he has served his sentence (partially in an open prison and partly subject to electronic tagging). Moreover, there is some suggestion that the pub fight he was involved in which led to the prosecution involved some racial provocation. But no matter. It still does not rank really high up on the list of offences. However, it seems clear that the decision to proceed energetically and suddenly to detain him and to deport him to Jamaica (no one seems able to explain this destination...) is something to do with those who have previously failed in their public duties needing to be seen now to be tough in order to face down legitimate criticism. Apparently the place where he was staying in London was surrounded by 30 armed police officers on the grounds he was now an intense danger to the public. And this is someone who was so little of a danger to the public that he served his sentence in an open prison and with tagging, and who has reported as required to his probation officer. Moreover, his (supportive) family say he regrets his crime, and that there is no danger of him reoffending, and those statements I take in the absence of evidence to the contrary on trust. Anyway, having been here sufficiently long to regard this indubitably as his home, Leal made the mistake of not swapping the "indefinite leave to stay" in his Chilean passport for a UK passport, which he presumably would have got if he applied before committing his offence. I am pleased to see also from the Herald that he has support from public figures such as Irvine Welsh and Elaine C. Smith, as well as his family. I add my voice, for what it is worth, to that.

The more considered post on xenophobia and the difference a passport makes will have to wait.


Blogger Cliff said...

with the greatest respect bondwoman, and whilst not denying that there will undoubtedly be a hasty and poorly thought out response to this issue from the goverment you need to be careful about chucking such terms as kneejerk and xenophobic around. Yes there is alarm that something that people had thought was under some kind of control wasn't and perhaps knee-jerk is a tabloid synonym for alarm but just because the individuals concerned are from overseas you can't automatically paint everyone who's worried about this as xenophobic. It's their criminal acts and risk of doing more such acts that I should think is in most people's minds rather than the colour of their passports. Whilst we are stuck with our homegown n'er do wells I don't think it is xenophobic, or by implication racist, to ask the question do we have to tolerate such people who have come to do harm from overseas. I think we must all tread carefully with our language on this issue as it is not only one side of the argument that is prone to sweeping generalisations. I look forward to your forthcoming further article because you are obviously better informed than most on this so I do read with interest what you have to say on this and other matters.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006  
Blogger BondWoman said...

More to come in due course, but please don't treat the words xenophobic and racist as synonyms. I did not, and deliberately did not, use the word racist. I used the word xenophobic advisedly. What I fear is the interaction between these policies and the succour it gives to the BNP, who are racist.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006  

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