Friday 10 July 2009

Macer Hall deliberately misleads on asylum cases

Two days ago, the UK Border Agency's chief executive, Lin Homer gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. It was mainly newsworthy, to the tabloids, for the Nigerian jail story.

But she also gave an update on the progress with the so-called asylum legacy cases. This news has finally reached the Desmond papers - and swiftly been massaged into something not very accurate.

Here's how it was reported by the Guardian:

197,500 of the 450,000 cases had been resolved by the end of May. Of those resolved, a third (62,000 people) had gained permission to stay in the UK. For 27,500, removal directions were issued.

However, a caveat should be added to that from the Home Office's UK Border Agency website:

We have previously estimated that there are between 400,000 and 450,000 electronic and paper records, but many of them are duplicates or errors. So this figure is not the number of asylum applicants awaiting a decision.

Therefore, as there are not 450,000 cases, you couldn't just say 'well, as a third of the resolved cases have resulted in leave to remain, we'll divide 450,000 by three and say that's how many are staying'.

Unless you were a moronic, lazy, anti-immigrant journalist. In which case, you already have.

So in its story '150,000 asylum seekers to stay' the Star claims: 'Nearly 150,000 asylum seekers will stay in Britain because staff cannot handle the paperwork'. Which is a bizarrely worded first paragraph, using incorrect figures and making it seem as if these asylum seekers aren't being allowed to stay for any other legitimate reason.

The Star then quotes two totally unbiased commentators on the subject - Migrationwatch and the TaxPayers' Alliance.

Those two also pop up in the Express' version of the story. Soft-touch asylum as 144,000 get 'back door amnesty' is their headline. Of course, only 62,000 have actually been granted leave to remain, so talking of the 144,000 in the present tense is misleading. And the 144,000 is dubious anyway, because there aren't 450,000 cases - the Express allows 'officials' to call the figure 'speculative' towards the end of the story (and only towards the end of the story).

But journalist Macer Hall also makes it seem as if all those people who have been given leave to remain shouldn't have been. The use of the button-pushing word 'amnesty' is for no other reason than to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment, and implies their asylum claims had no genuine merit. As the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association states:

Some people think...the Home Office have begun a new ‘amnesty’ exercise for granting indefinite leave to remain to people in order to clear their backlog. This is not correct. The Home Office may grant leave to remain to some individuals. However, this will only happen if the individual’s circumstances meet existing criteria for a grant of leave to remain.

But Hall ploughs on, saying: 'many suspected border cheats are effectively being given an amnesty from deportation.' Except, it's not an amnesty. And asylum seekers are not 'border cheats'. He also writes: 'Many are claimants who should have been deported as far back as the mid-1990s'.

But the fact of them being 'legacy cases' is that their original cases were never decided one way or another. Hall and the Express either don't understand this, or - more likely - wilfully choose to ignore it. Here is the UK Border Agency explanation:

We define these unresolved asylum cases as ones where an asylum claim has been made and, as yet, the application has not been concluded either because of errors in recording information or because there is still some action we need to take on it.

So if they never had their asylum claim turned down, how can Hall conclude they 'should have been deported'? Of course, the Express is only interested in making them all seem undeserving. And to that end both it and the Star conveniently 'forget' to mention that 27,500 who have had their claims rejected and are lined up for removal.

It's more insidious inflammatory and - of course - untrue crap from hate-filled papers.

Still, at least a previous, ridiculous scare story about the legacy cases - that half a million asylum seekers would be granted leave to remain as the backlog was cleared - has been well and truly destroyed. Who would come up with such wildly exaggerated bullshit?

Macer Hall. In the Express.

Yes, in 2007's Secret 'amnesty' for 500,000 asylum cases, he believed all those 450,000 'cases' were to be approved, and then made up another 50,000 just to make it an even half-million. He also inaccurately referred to 'failed asylum seekers' and 'immigrants who were turned down for refugee status but not expelled from the country'. So after two years, he still doesn't understand what he's talking about. Or doesn't want to.

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