Monday, June 12, 2006

More on Sakchai Makao

Spies in the European Parliament tell me that Alyn Smith, MEP for the Highlands and Islands, raised the issue of Sakchai Makao (see my earlier post) in the European Parliament plenary session this afternoon, as a sort of point of order. As far as I can tell, a verbatim text should appear in due course here in the section "P-T", by MEP surname (Update: actually it is precisely here (word document). It was not a remarkable intervention; a speaker has about 60 seconds to make his point in that context before the microphone is switched off, but it was a brief resume of the facts by someone who is a pretty effective political speaker. The issue has certainly galvanised the community in Shetland, with rallies and other public activities in addition to paper and online petitions. It is interesting to see this (and I have seen it because many many Shetlanders have visited my site via a link on "Shetlink", and I have obviously followed the links back again courtesy of my site meter) and discovered in the process that there will be "a peaceful demonstration outside the Scottish Parliment building on Tuesday 13th of June at approximately 11AM to highlight the injustice of Sakchai's deportation. We hope to bring the Shetland for Sakchai campaign to Edinburgh and raise awareness of the unreasnoble treatment of Sakchai on Scottish soil to the MSPs." Further info or messages of support to chrisjam82 at gmail.com.

Apart from the Herald, which can generally be relied upon to cover this sort of Scottish matter, the only substantial coverage of this issue in the MSM has been a comment by Gillian Bowditch in the Sunday Times. The Shetlanders suggest is it broadly accurate, although their beef would be that it suggests they (deliberately?) understated the severity of Makao's original offence, which they claim is not true. It is interesting because it suggests that such a deportation should not occur for reasons of community sovereignty: politicians praise close communities, and claim that they design policies intended to foster such communities. In that case, it ill behoves them to ignore a powerful expression of community solidarity, as in this case.

Fine, ok. But what if such a community is not in place. What if no-one is mobilised to argue that to deport such and such a now released foreign former prisoner is unjust? Is it then ok to deport with impunity? Clearly not, in my view. Each case must be judged on its own facts, taking into account all the factors including, but not just, the degree to which an individual is in different ways integrated into his or her many communities. But in my view there is an (individual) human rights issue here (and believe me, I am very reluctant to invoke human rights arguments), in cases where there is no substantial connection between the person subject to a deportation order and the place to which they are likely to be deported and - especially - if they are not (any longer) proficient in the language, then it will be hard to argue the case for deportation. Except, of course, and this is implicit in so much of the comment about these matters, you at heart believe that foreigners, and foreign lives, are worth less, just because they don't have the passport. If you did not believe that, then you would be arguing for the deportation of anyone who was foreign born, not just those without British passports. And that does not appear to be the common view.

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