Britain committed to fair immigration, it tells skilled migrants

October 3rd, 2008 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 3 (IANS) The British government Friday said it will not tolerate any violation of non-discriminatory border control principles after campaigners complained of “humiliation, harassment and abuse” of legal migrants by airport immigration officers.”High standards of professionalism are expected from our staff and great emphasis is placed on both behaviour and courtesy. Immigration officers are trained to politely but robustly challenge people who arrive at our ports,” a spokesman for the UK Border Agency told IANS.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that duties are undertaken without regard to race, colour or religion of individuals seeking to enter Britain and do not tolerate any breach of these principles,” he added.

The comment came after a group that campaigns for skilled migrants said immigration officers in busy British airports were harassing legal Indian and other migrants, citing cases where they were illegally threatened with deportation.

The HSMP (Highly Skilled Migrants Programme) Forum said it was receiving complaints from returning migrants who had suffered at the hands of “overly zealous immigration officers” at airports like Heathrow, Manchester and Belfast.

“Our members complain that upon their and their families’ return from trips abroad they are harshly discriminated against by the immigration authorities, though they are fully legally entitled to re-enter the country to continue contributing to the British economy,” said Amit Kapadia, executive director of the forum.

Giving individual examples of alleged harassment, the Forum said immigration officers not only lecture migrants and offer unsolicited advice, they have also detained and threatened deportation without any reason.

The government spokesperson said it was unable to comment on individual cases but added: “The UK Border Agency is determined to maintain effective immigration controls, preventing those who have no right to be here from entering Britain and ensuring that the treatment of genuine travellers at ports is both speedy and efficient. Any questioning of an individual is to ensure that they qualify for entry to Britain.”

The HSMP Forum gave the example of Pooja Tandon, who it said was detained at Heathrow airport while returning from holiday in Switzerland with her husband, child and parents.

It quoted her as saying an immigration officer at Heathrow lectured them about “finding alternative employment” and about “the shifts we work and child care arrangements”.

“He then said he is detaining us for further enquiry and if he is not satisfied with it then he will deport us,” although the family was let off with a verbal warning.

Pooja Tandon added: “We are really shaken by this incident. We felt being treated like criminals. We pay our taxes and national insurance and all other bills and are being threatened this way”.

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