Friday, January 27, 2006
Finns or Family?
Are some immigrants more 'British' than others? Not according to the government. A few weeks ago the powers-that-be announced a proposal that would end the specal rights given to Commonwealth citizens, with British grandparents, to settle in the United Kingdom. These 'ancestry' privileges generally apply to Old Commonwealth citizens, from Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc. About 10,000 immigrants take advantage of the laws every year.
Obviously there are sound political reasons for this continued downgrading of our ties with the 'White Dominions', in favour of our exciting new ties with Latvia, Belgium and Afghanistan. But sometimes this trend flies in the face of emotion - and history.
Some time back I was returning from a short trip in France with my then girlfriend. She's British, born in Britain, and lives in Britain. But she happens to have a Canadian passport due to her father's assumed nationality. She was carrying this passport when we went to France; it never occurred to us that it might cause problems.
We were wrong. At Dover we were stopped, and my girlfriend's passport was minutely examined. Then she was interrogated, aggressively and lengthily, by an immigration officer. Why was her Canadian passport so blank? Where exactly was she going in the UK? Did she have enough money to live on? Was she going to sponge off the state? What was a Canadian doing at Dover? Etc.
For an hour, my girlfriend was made to feel like an illegal immigrant at best, like a criminal at worst. And while it went on, all around us the UK's newer immigrants - French, German, Greek, Spanish, Ukrainian, Finnish, Iraqi - were sailing through Customs unhindered.
Coincidentally, my girlfriend and I had just come from a tour of the World War One battlefields in France. My girlfriend had shown particular interest in the graves of Vimy Ridge. Where 20,000 loyal Canadians died in the defence of the British Empire.
Posted by sean at 6:51 pm