Amandeep Singh Bhogal is a former diplomat, has been a candidate for the London Assembly and is on the Parliamentary Candidates List.
As the doors of the P&O container carrying the human cargo of Afghan Sikhs were flung open in Tilbury at 6.37 a.m. on Saturday, revealed was the sad plight of the 35 souls who opened their eyes to a tragic, unexpected and horrid reality surrounded by death, misery and uncertainty. A tragedy, for which blame lies entirely at the hands of the evil Taliban that have plagued and terrorised Afghanistan over the last twenty years.
Leaving behind the persecution and terror of Afghanistan, their journey is one made by tens of thousands for varying reasons from across the world with counterfeit visas in hand provided by organised criminal gangs. The trek to the ports in Tilbury or Southampton or Hull is usually made via either Greece or Cyprus or Moscow by air and then over land across Europe reaching France or Belgium and then into a shipping container.
As Sir John Major has recently posited, the prime reason and motivation for immigrants coming to Britain is economic – to enable themselves to build a better life, to create wealth and to get on in life. However, it certainly seems that the motivation for these desperate Afghan Sikhs making this perilous journey is more humanitarian than economic seeing how they are persecuted by a resurgent Taliban who even levy on them an ‘infidel’ Jazia tax and behead any Sikh or Hindu that does not pay up. Thus, many thousands of Sikhs and Hindus have fled to India to seek asylum, refuge and peace.
However, following the long route to Britain are many economic migrants from across mainly Africa and Asia desperately seeking passage to London, usually handing over around £15,000-£20,000 per person to criminal gangs who run this dirty but lucrative business to increasingly fund a wide variety of evil activities ranging from Islamist terror to narcotics production to arms proliferation. From ISIS in Iraq to Laskar–e–Taiba in Jammu and Kashmir to Boko Haram in Nigeria, this racket is a key fundraiser for attacks against the free world.
It is very likely that the Tilbury Afghan Sikhs are genuine refugees that may seek genuine asylum here in Britain to escape from the evil clutches of the Taliban. However, illegal immigration is a problem that continues to grow at a rapid pace, with nearly 20,000 people intercepted trying to enter Britain without leave over just twelve months until May 2014. As it becomes cheaper to reach Britain this number is sure to soar having increased year-on-year by a whopping 62 per cent.
The fight against illegal immigration is a fight Britain has been far too unwilling to talk about, far too hesitant and mostly ill-equipped to fight. With immigration of any kind being a taboo for most politicians to talk about – it is always wrongly linked with race and anyone daring enough to discuss it constructively is hastily labelled as a racist – the matter of illegal immigration has created a society divided in its opinion not just on legal, positive and managed immigration but increasingly of multiculturalism itself.
But this is a situation not limited to the UK, as over the last decade India has had a socialist Congress government unwilling to tackle the problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh while shamelessly issuing social security and identity documents legitimising millions in return for votes.
The will and the effort to tackle this growing concern will take far more than just recruiting more UK Border Agency officers to man our ports or carry out more raids on illegal immigrants already here. We have to respond much more profoundly to illegal immigration by working much more closely with our partners across the world to tackle the roots of the problem, from proactively bringing to justice the criminal gangs trafficking people to halting the thousands of travel agents manipulating the system (who even publish adverts in local newspapers in the Punjab ‘guaranteeing’ UK visas).
While fighting the criminal human traffickers can help reduce illegal immigration, the challenge of stopping bogus immigration is one that usually escapes the radar.
While visiting the Punjab recently I came across a family of five on the plane who were flying back to the Punjab after eight long years. Upon finding out that I was a Conservative Parliamentary candidate, much to my consternation, I was profusely ‘thanked’, for it was ‘my’ government that had made it possible for them to head back to the Punjab. The reason for their long wait of eight years was simple – they had been unable to travel as they were in the UK illegally after overstaying their student visas. However, after eight years of paying no tax while working hard as a building sub-contractor and not claiming benefits, sending their children to state-funded schools, using the NHS while not paying any national insurance and making use of various other local council services they had been granted British citizenship as they had been judged to have the ‘right to a family life in the UK’ – Britain had effectively demonstrated that it was a soft touch on illegal immigration.
With travel agents and middle-men guaranteeing to fulfil all visa conditions from arranging an IELTS/TOEFL certificate of English language proficiency to bank statements proving funds for college fees, ticking all the boxes on the UK visa form, for a small fee. Surely, we must bring back face-to-face visa interviews at our diplomatic missions.
Our check-box visa and immigration system is rotten. Especially, seeing how these persecuted, tired and unfortunate Afghan Sikhs have had to make this needlessly dangerous and tragic journey to escape Islamist tyranny clearly shows that our immigration system needs to change and change quickly. When a genuine refugee has to risk the lives of his wife and children in such a perilous ordeal to reach safety while a bogus student can be made a citizen after repeatedly breaking the law is a loud alarm bell that should wake us up with a jolt..
We must start properly counting people in and out at our ports. Like Australia, we must start laying down actual limits not just targets for net migration. Whilst we must ensure that Britain continues to educate and help shape the world leaders of tomorrow by remaining the preferred destination for Indian and Chinese students, at the same time we must ensure that this trusting welcome is not abused. We must have the courage and conviction to drive forward the ‘axis of good’ with friends across the free world to fight terror and tyranny to stop the forced displacement of people. With employment rising and a record number of apprenticeships, we must do even more in our long term economic plan to ensure that young Britons make up a skilled and willing workforce to compete at all levels in all industries.
While we dither in indecision to help and give refuge to the defenceless Yazidis facing the evil blades of Islamist terror at their throats, we allow our sovereignty to be decimated by the EU in forcing us to accept free movement of people from nations that are rushed into becoming EU members without a legitimate shred of economic or social parity.
However, only 4,174 miles away from Westminster in Delhi, Prime Minister Modi and his government, seeing the concerns of the Indian public, have increasingly pursued a hands-on approach in tackling India’s enormous illegal immigration problem.
With over two thousand ethnic groups in India, this bold new approach in tackling illegal immigration by Modi has nothing to do with ethnicity, religion or nationality – yet it has everything to do with economic balance, public resources and social cohesion. It is not about race but resources. It is about putting the national interests of India first.
India had to suffer a decade of decay under the socialist rule of the Congress party before it realised that it had to challenge illegal immigration. Surely, having suffered the terrible thirteen years of socialist rule under Labour, Britain has seen the disastrous effects of unchecked, unmanaged and undebated immigration from the EU and beyond? When will we openly, honestly and fearlessly start to tackle illegal immigration? When will the loony left grow up and move on from the divisive politics of identity, race and colour?
When will we realise that it is not at all about race or ethnicity or religion but it is all about putting Britain’s national interest first?
We must never let another Tilbury tragedy happen again.