On Euro Vision and the Migration Strategy #Flashnews (part III)

©John Stadnicki, 2019.

In 2012, Theresa Mary May (née Brasier) was just a mere Home Secretary. She was under pressure from David William Donald (née Cameron), who was fighting Nigel Paul (née Farage) on the electoral front, to do something about the migration data. And she had an idea which got her a few brownie points from the PM. ‘Dave, why not produce a hostile environment for undocumented migrants,’ she said, to which the PM responded ‘Well done, Theresita, that’s my girl.’ And, as simple as that, the hostile environment strategy was conceived on a sofa in 10 Downing Street, and later on ended up being implemented.

The strategy is up and running since 2016. The Guardian(ed. 16th Feb. 2019) reports that the Home Office is attempting to embed immigration officers at a rate of almost £60 an hour as part of an ‘enhanced checking service.’ The service is available to public services, including NHS trusts and local authorities, as well as private firms. Over the past two and a half years, Home Office officers have been deployed to test the policy. But the strategy is not just about ‘enhanced checking.’

Institutions and organisations are offered ‘real-time’ access to information about someone’s immigration status as well as ‘on-site immigration official.’ The on-site officer can attend interviews and can encourage undocumented migrants to leave the country voluntarily. There is no public information about the methods used to encourage people to leave but, hopefully, with the media’s pressure, the Home Office will release further details.

I will not explore any further how the public funds are used under the pretext of national security. The governmental misjudgement and funding misplacement are, by now, legendary locally and Europeanly. And the Home Office’s policies seem to fit well a system based on miscommunication and misunderstanding.

There is something more bothersome I came across not very long ago. A few weeks ago, I came to understand that a young British citizen, travelling by train from London to Paris, managed to cross the border without a passport. The UK Border Agency let the young Brit off on the basis that the teenager was travelling as part of the group and had a scanned copy of his passport saved on a laptop. Although getting out of the country was easy, coming back from Paris a few days later created a bit of a problem at the Parisian train station. But the British citizen managed to get back to Britain on his scanned document, whilst the UK Border Agency’s officer warned the eyewitnesses that he would put a complaint against the section of the UK Border Agency which had let the person travel in the first place. Well, who is going to check that such a complaint was actually put forward?

The questions this incident brings forward are numerous. The issue of ‘legality’ in such a case would be the first, followed by the problem with the Home Office’s wasted funds on ‘monitorisation.’ And there are rhetorical points here. What is the point in having passports, if one could just travel without? Would a migrant have been allowed to travel from the UK to Europe and vice-versa without a passport? If I turn up at Heathrow or St. Pancras with just a scanned copy of my passport, will I manage to cross the border without problems? (to be continued)

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Published in International Times on 2/3/2019.

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Laureateship – Champagne Taste but Beer Money

Marx Reichlich (c.1485–1520) ‘The Jester’ ©Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

For over two days now, this business with who is going to be the next Poet Laureate has been in my mind. The matter is slowly gathering momentum. The search for a new ‘Nation’s Poet’ is about to start at the end of this week. Social and mainstream media are already speculating possible candidates and appointments. What used to be a process surrounded by secrecy, appears to currently aim for better transparency and diversity. Three days ago, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media&Sport with the Department of Education launched an expert panel to advise on the selection of the next Poet Laureate.

15 experts from all over the U.K. will be working for six months to identify the best poet the country has to offer and suited for such honours. One assumes that a governmental announcement means money; travel, accommodation bills, meals, drinks, commissions paid. Realistically, the named experts haven’t temporarily left their current jobs just to sit in a hotel for six months and debate  without even be paid. This is the case when a pope is elected, for instance, and even in such circumstances it usually doesn’t take longer than a few weeks. [Though, one must recognise, the longest papal conclave took over two years. In the 13thcentury. One assumes that modern times, with the benefit of instant and simultaneous communication, have made the selection much easier. It is the era when everybody knows everything about everybody else.]

The tax payer will gladly fund this laureateship race as the government was clever at publicising, with news of the new panel, the relaunch of the National Poetry Competition in schools. [September next year though.] Parents are, probably, enthused by this and temporarily willing to overlook the black cloud looming over the British arts sector with Brexit ahead. They would have long forgotten 7% budget cuts in the arts sector implemented in 2013. Only a week ago, the government announced a slight increase in budget spending for arts, though it does not reach over 5%.

Anyone noticed the arts are still in deficit, with some museums, libraries, theatres, cinemas in a desolate financial situation?

Six months expenses for 15 experts could save a community library, a cinema, an independent publisher, an old press, a centre for youth; could create poetry bursaries. And the list could go on and on.

And what is all this for? Five thousand pounds a year and a barrel of sherry, for the privileges that come with these? Or is it just for giving the country the sense of ‘normality’ back? For the ‘glamour’? At least one of the favourites, the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, made his position clear this morning, ruling himself out of taking the title.

This development brings yet another question into focus. A question about the relevance of a ‘poet laureate’ as a cultural institution driven by bureaucracy, promoted by bureaucracy and privilege, out of touch with our times and defined by an identity crisis. To add a bit of context, it is worth mentioning that there are  just a few countries which still have a poet laureate. Among them are USA, Canada, Germany, Serbia, India, Turkey, Somalia, Nigeria, Iran and North Korea. The number is even smaller when we consider the countries which allow the government to get involved.

And, finally, if this is about the ‘nation’s poet’ as the government says, has anybody asked the nation? Maybe this appointment, more than others, should be done by referendum, considering we have become experts at this too.

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

 

Further reading:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-starts-selection-process-for-next-poet-laureate

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/oct/12/brexit-is-black-cloud-for-uk-arts-says-nicholas-hytner-national-theatre

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-23060049

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/poet-laureate-2018-benjamin-zephaniah-shortlist-announcement-when-carol-ann-duffy-a8619896.html