A new book castigates immigration controls for their Orwellian connotations.
On 18 October 2005, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruled that deportations to Zimbabwe put failed asylum seekers at risk and should cease. The end of the matter, you would think. And yet, last week, the case of RA was being heard at York House in Feltham, West London. This middle-aged Zimbabwean woman and her young daughter had both been raped by ZANU PF troops. Mrs RA fled to the UK, where she learnt that she was HIV positive. Back in Zimbabwe, her daughter tested positive too. Just days before the hearing, RA heard that her daughter was dying. She was absolutely distraught. The lawyer explained this to the immigration judge. The response was: ‘Yes I know the circumstances of your client, but why isn’t she here today?’
Surreal, Kafkaesque is how such cases have previously been described. Steve Cohen, however, sees in today’s immigration controls, the world of George Orwell’s dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four. Though Orwell wrote to warn of the heartless, duplicitous, all-controlling power of totalitarian Communism in 1949, the concepts he created are apt for describing the immigration systems. The client is never believed, the rules keep changing, words do not mean what you think they do, memory has died and Room 101s are everywhere.
This is an angry, passionate polemic from one of Britain’s foremost campaigners for immigration and asylum rights. Cohen traces the root of our unjust immigration systems to the treatment of Jews in the early twentieth century and proposes that the rout of the systems will come only with the removal of all immigration controls. For Cohen, No-One is Illegal.
The ironically titled Deportation is Freedom! is unlikely to win over the ‘uninitiated’ but it provides a pile of ammunition for those lawyers, campaigners and, increasingly, teachers and social workers, who have to fight the iniquities of the system every day.