The human face of this debate on immigration

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Yesterday this newspaper highlighted the plight of Blerim Mlloja. Shortly after his 18th birthday, Mr Mlloja - who fled to Britain from Albania three years ago - was abruptly taken into custody by the immigration services. He is now due to be deported on the grounds that Albania - where both his parents were murdered - is deemed to be "safe" by the Home Office, and because Mr Mlloja is now officially an adult. His British foster parents are understandably distraught.

It is vital that we recognise that whenever the Government talks about "cracking down" on immigration, they are talking about people like Mr Mlloja. They are also talking about people like 31-year-old Perparim Demaj, whose story we outline today. Mr Demaj came to Britain from Kosovo seven years ago, fleeing the civil war in his homeland. Since then, he has been a model citizen.

Mr Demaj learned English and gained qualifications in social care and nursing. He has spent much of the last few years working for Manchester City Council as a community support worker, helping the elderly and those suffering from HIV. His hard work was valued so much by his colleagues and the community that when the immigration services told him to leave Britain last year, a campaign was formed to protect Mr Demaj's right to stay. Manchester City Council applied to the Home Office for a work permit for Mr Demaj, but it was turned down. Now, like Mr Mlloja, he could be deported at any time. Although not in custody, Mr Demaj is barred from working and denied benefits. This has reduced him to a state of penury while he awaits his fate.

The cruelty of the treatment of these two men demonstrates all that is abhorrent about the Government's "tough" policy on immigration. And things are set to get worse. Soon it will not just be 18-year-olds like Mr Mlloja who are wrenched from foster parents and sent "home", but children as young as 16. And if someone as well-qualified and motivated as Mr Demaj is denied a work permit now - in a time of supposedly lax immigration - how many more will suffer when the Government implements its quota policy? This is no way for a civilised society to behave.

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