I’ve had a few friends over the years who’ve fallen prey to the UK Border Agency. I’ve seen them take people away for good and I’ve seen people successfully appeal, I’ve known people who’ve spent years evading them too. It’s always an unequal struggle though. And it’s seldom a question of immigration policy or the relative benefits or failings of it. They, like most figures of authority, act to project their own power as much, if not more, than anything else. The case with Byron Burgers the other day is one example of that, but so are their fishing trips to certain areas or their check points at train stations and transport hubs.
Exercises like that do nothing to limit the flow of people into this country, or to mitigate the factors that bring them here, or open legal avenues for them to come, or hinder those who profit off of their transportation and frequent exploitation. All they do is instill fear in normal people whose status may be uncertain and project a false image of strength and control from the government and its agencies. Which is nice for headlines, if you’re playing to a certain audience, but worthless as far as effecting any real change goes. What does happen though is that it takes those lacking security and makes their lives harder, it makes normal people living normal lives and working normal jobs have to worry on a daily basis about where they go and what they do. An easy example of authorities punching down rather than trying to face the root issues and causes.
There’s no point in trying to demonise those who work for UKBA, no doubt many of them are just doing a job themselves, or believe that what they’re doing is good. But as with any organisation granted power by the state the personal matters far less than the institutional and the results matter far more than the intent. Which in this case makes it hard not to resent them when they bowl up on another speculative hunt for ‘illegal’ human beings.
It spreads beyond the victims too, that resentment and paranoia. Knowing that there are groups of people setting out to grab your friends, co-workers and even strangers you pass on the street is always going to carry a weight on the way you think about the world. Presumably it gives a sense of justice and security to some out there, although I can’t speculate on who or where, but certainly in London, for me, it does the opposite.
Immigration is a big issue these days, subject to endless debate on all levels and that’s a different matter for a different day. The behavior and approach of the authorities though, the actions they take on a day to day level, that’s something easier to judge. It doesn’t work, it doesn’t help and it makes life harder, more suspicious and poorer for all of us. All thoughts to bear in mind when the next ‘tough’ headline on immigration crops up, or when you next go to get a train and see them plucking people from a crowd.