Jamaican immigration rules 'racist': UK official accused of 'stereotyping'

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The Independent Online
BRITISH immigration officials in Jamaica are discriminating against applications from single mothers - echoing the recent condemnation of them by government ministers - and leading to renewed allegations that current policy towards the former Commonwealth country is being dictated by racial stereotyping.

A document written by the UK's entry clearance officer in Kingston, Jamaica, claims 'women from poor rural areas have children by different fathers, as each father is required to pay maintenance'. The officer concluded that a single mother with an extended family might net 1,000 Jamaican dollars ( pounds 36) in maintenance a week.

But Claude Moraes, director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said yesterday: 'It is not only nonsense, it is allowing racist assumptions to permeate immigration policy.'

Mr Moraes's criticism follows the unprecedented and controversial targeting of a plane full of Jamaican visitors just before Christmas, which led to the initial detention of 190 passengers - and the eventual expulsion of 28 - amid claims of racism.

The document was written in response to a Jamaican woman's application to join her husband in Britain. In it, the immigration official concluded that the main purpose of the marriage was to secure the woman's entry into the UK.

Mr Moraes was also concerned that, among the reasons for turning down the application, the immigration official had cited a poll showing that 62 per cent of Jamaicans would emigrate given the chance. The official said that economic decline, high inflation and high unemployment 'has fuelled an already strong inherent desire by many Jamaicans to flee . . . A traditional disregard of the state of matrimony has led to consistent abuse of the concept in order to secure residence abroad and it was against this background that he viewed the appellant's application.'

However, Mr Moraes said: 'It is irresponsible and unprofessional to take a meaningless poll and apply it to individual cases.' He said immigration welfare officers had frequently come across such 'stereotypical and subjective' language in cases from the Indian sub-continent, where there has long been immigration concern about whether or not the 'primary purpose' of a marriage has been to secure UK residence.

Among recent controversial cases was one where an immigration officer did not think the wife attractive enough for her husband. In another, the officer felt statements from a Bangladeshi bank were not as reliable as those from banks 'in the civilised world'.

Yesterday, the Home Office denied racial stereotyping was influencing its policy. 'We have an immigration policy which operates regardless of race, creed or colour,' a spokeswoman said. 'If established criteria are met and documentation satisfactorily completed, there is no bar to entry.' Meanwhile, members of the West Indian Standing Conference have met Home Office officials to try to prevent a reoccurence of the events at Gatwick airport before Christmas.

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