Migrants allegedly harassed at UK airports

HSMP Forum: Non-EU immigrants treated like criminals 23 June 2009: A non-profit organisation campaigning for the rights of skilled migrants, Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) Forum, believes migrants from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries are being treated like criminals by immigration officers at the airports upon re-entering Britain.
The Forum, with a large base of members from non-European countries, says it has received several complaints about harassment, humiliation, unfair treatment and interrogation at Heathrow, Manchester, Belfast, Glasgow airports. A substantial number of victims of harassment are Asians.

The individuals are questioned at airports, even though the immigration officers there have information on the individuals in their system. The interrogation usually consists of questions irrelevant to legitimate skilled migrants: How did the employer allow them to go on a long holiday? Why had they chosen to work in a particular field? And why didn’t they find a job in some other area? These are some of the immaterial questions the grilling session usually consists of.

If the immigration officer is not convinced on the authenticity of the statements by a migrant and his family, they are detained at the airport, their passports are taken away and they are issued a temporary admission letter which supersedes their original valid long term visa. They must appear for a second interview and during this time they lose their right to work and lose their jobs.

The Forum has cited, among others, the case of Dr Sujit Nair. He was allegedly harassed at the Glasgow airport on return from a holiday in India. He was first questioned by an immigration officer at the Glasgow airport and then by a police officer.

Dr. Nair works at the National Health Service (NHS), and has permanent residency in the UK. The Forum claims it has now taken up the issue with immigration authorities. The Forum’s Executive Director Amit Kapadia says they are treated like “criminals.” “We are very concerned and have raised the matter with the UK Border Agency. However, the explanation given is not satisfactory”.

He says the immigration officers are being given absolute power to detain legitimate, hard-working immigrants based on grounds of suspicion alone and without any reasonable doubt.
The Forum is currently lobbying against the retrospective application of the Citizenship and Immigration Bill and has also been raising issues concerned with tier 1 migrants and their visa extensions during this economic downturn.

It believes the government intends to introduce further harsh rules in the upcoming Immigration and Citizenship Bill. The Forum says there are indications the new bill will be applied retrospectively to migrants who are in the UK already.

While the government has the mandate to change the law and apply it to new immigrants, changes in law cannot and should not be applied retrospectively, the Forum asserts.

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