Letter: Immigration Bill is 'firm' but not 'fair'

From Mr Radu Popp-Vinteller

Sir: As an Eastern European exile to this shores, I read with interest Nirj Deva's article (Another View: "Fair and firm on immigration", 22 November) on the new Asylum and Immigration Bill.

My disappointment with his article comes from the fact that he fails in all respects to be specific about what "fair" and "firm" means in the proposed Bill. Moreover, he suggests genuine applicants have nothing to fear, yet it is widely acknowledged that the very act of seeking sanctuary has become criminalised, with finger printing and detention procedures. He omitted the fact that the term of asylum-seeker as still defined by law is dated, inadequate and ultimately redundant - for example, last year it was challenged in relation to persecutions on grounds of homosexuality.

Above all, Mr Deva seemed to imply that an economic refugee is a person who uses his position in this country for material gain without declaring it. The general background of more than 60 per cent of the Eastern Europeans here is college-educated and middle class. The benefits of living on the poverty line, or taking jobs that white British people do not want, or having jobs refused because we have a persona non grata status cannot be seen as the main reason for fleeing one's native country.

To be a European exile in Britain at the end of the 20th century is to be undesired living proof that the plunder that occurs in Eastern Europe is unjust and oppressive at civil, political, cultural, social and, ultimately, at economic level, and that some of us still refuse to accept it and we pay the price of exile trying to make the West conscious of it.

Eventually what is disconcerting about the new Bill is not the racist- or-not debated issues, but the fact that it aims to tackle an effect - eg, asylum-seekers and immigration, without trying to sort out the causes. Mr Deva's article ignores these causes, which is very distressing, considering the lessons of history and the geo-political presence of Eastern Europe. The plight of Bosnia is a harrowing example of a lesson of history that politicians were complacent to learn and are now apparently happy to be rid of, but at what human cost?

Yours sincerely,

Radu Popp-Vinteller

London, SW1

24 November

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