Letter: The cruelty of immigration law

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The Independent Online
Sir: I welcome the criticism being made by the Law Society of the family reunion aspects of the new immigration rules (1 October).

As Assistant, then Head, of the Migration and Visa Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1979-83, it was my unpleasant responsibility to assist in the implementation of the first changes in immigration rules of the new government.

Main attention focused on the restrictions on male fiances, but I always felt that those preventing the elderly from coming to this country to live with children and other young relatives willing to support them were the most cruel.

I well remember Lord Whitelaw (as he now is) introducing the rules in the House of Commons and, with a feeling of sickness, hearing him say the chilling words 'and have no one else to turn to' at the end of the list of strict conditions that had to be fulfilled. I could not understand why the elderly should be prevented from spending the evening of their lives with those who were most able and willing to support them.

I never accepted the argument that they might be a strain on our social services. In recent years, while visiting my mother and then my aunt in geriatric wards, I never saw a person from the ethnic communities as a long-stay patient. Cultural influences militate against this. But I did see ethnic-minority nurses, ward-maids, etc, rendering service.

As a nation we should indeed be ashamed of our lack of charity in now imposing even harsher limitations.

Yours faithfully,


London, SE16

1 October