The deportation of Irene Clennell shows how callous this Government is when it comes to immigration

Irene Clennell has a British spouse, two children in their twenties who were born in the UK, even a grandchild. But of course, none of this matters to a government determined to get numbers down, one at a time 

Tom Peck
Monday 27 February 2017 12:13
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Clennell lost her residency rights after returning to Singapore to care for her dying parents
Clennell lost her residency rights after returning to Singapore to care for her dying parents

Given how reviled the man is, all around the globe, it remains a marvel how many politicians want to be just like Donald Trump. Surely it can’t actually be a competition? But if it were, Amber Rudd would be winning. Perhaps it’s wise: Theresa May notwithstanding, only Premier League football managers have a shorter shelf life than Home Secretaries, and it’s distinctly possible Rudd is lining herself up for the Saturday Night Live gig, should anything mysterious suddenly happen to Alec Baldwin.

We’re not yet at the point where Rudd is scraping up the hairs on the nape of her neck up and dragging them over her forehead, nor does she yet punctuate her sentences by forming a circle with her thumb and index finger, but these matters are merely cosmetic and, from a purely epistemological perspective, the Trump evolution is complete.

News you don’t like? News you disagree with? News that’s embarrassing? What is it? Yep, that’s right. It’s fake news.

Amber Rudd blames 'fake news' for misrepresenting child refugee situation

Asked by Robert Peston on Sunday, whether she would consider going back on restrictions placed on the resettlement of child refugees, Rudd told him that: “Just from your question it shows that the fake news is already settling out there.”

It’s distinctly possible Rudd does not like the reaction that has greeted what the Home Office had hoped would be a quiet announcement that the number of unaccompanied child refugees coming to the UK under the Dubs Amendment would be limited to 350.

Perhaps some of this coverage has failed to convey that there are other schemes via which vulnerable children and their families are settled here, even if this fact has not been sufficient to placate Lord Dubs himself, the Czech Jew evacuated to Britain in the 1930s who introduced the amendment and said the government is “manifestly” not adopting the “spirit of the letter of the amendment”.

But, and it is tiresome to have to point this out, unless the media reaction has been entirely fabricated and pumped out by Macedonian teenagers for the purposes of making a few quid from advertisers it is not, it is absolutely not fake news.

President Trump uses the term ‘fake news’ to attempt to delegitimise news outlets whose coverage of him he does not like. Most observers, journalist and politician alike, consider it an extremely serious attack on press freedom. And yet so common now are the frontline politicians desperate to copy his tactics.

As it happens, a couple of hundred miles away from Peston’s sofa at the Dungavel Detention Centre in South Lanarkshire, a woman called Irene Clennell was having a rather different Sunday morning, and so as not to again evoke the ire of the Home Secretary, I will attempt to stick entirely to the facts.

Clennell is 53 (the same age as Amber Rudd, as it happens). She has lived in the UK for three decades. She has a British spouse, two children in their twenties who were born in the UK, even a grandchild. On Sunday morning she was taken from Dungavel to Singapore, with £12 in her pocket, her clothes still at her home, with her sick husband Jon, for whom she is carer.

Jon doesn’t earn more than £18,600 a year, the earnings threshold required for spousal leave to remain. And because Clennell returned to Singapore for an extended period of time to care for her dying parents, she has lost her residency rights too.

Thus far, all the Home Office have managed to say on the matter is: “All applications for leave to remain in the UK are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. We expect those with no legal right to remain in the country to leave.”

It might be slightly embarrassing, for a little while, but this is a government that certainly gives off no sense of having any more important goal than reducing immigration numbers. It’s seven years since David Cameron, then leader of the opposition, said net immigration should be kept to the ‘tens of thousands,’ a genie that stubbornly refuses to be sent back into the bottle. There are millions of Brexit voters who will not be happy until that number is reached, and they are the only voters this government shows any desire to placate. Clennell is at least one down, a quarter of a million to go.

We also learn that, when Theresa May triggers Article 50 next month, that date will also form the cut off point for leave to remain for EU migrants after the UK leaves the European Union. It will also almost certainly mean the same in reverse – that if you’re planning on retiring to Spain, if you want it to be hassle free, you’ve only got a month to do it.

Two weeks ago, Tony Blair made the rather sharp point that Theresa May’s Government is a “mono-purpose political entity”, a “government of one issue: Brexit”, that was preventing it from forming a coherent policy on any other issue, “not even, irony of ironies, a genuine policy to control immigration”. Most of which, Blair again pointed out, is not coming from the EU.

Maybe Blair was wrong. There is a policy there. Get the numbers down at any cost, and should anyone dissent, call them fake news and be done with it.

And if that doesn’t work? Well, you could always build a wall.

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