Immigration service acts tough

NOW that Elton Ismaili has been sent out of Britain to the uncertainties of Kosovo, maybe it's time to think why this country's immigration service is in such a state.

NOW that Elton Ismaili has been sent out of Britain to the uncertainties of Kosovo, maybe it's time to think why this country's immigration service is in such a state.

I can't help wondering if there's a certain machismo operating within the service and its Home Office masters - they almost want to be seen as heartless in the face of protests so they can stand up and say: “We're being tough on asylum seekers.”

Like many people, I cannot understand the logic of deporting people who arrived in Britain years ago when their own countries were dangerous simply because our bureacracy was unable to cope with them at the time.

If someone like Elton has grown up in Britain, speaks English like a local and has a good job paying tax, what is the point in deporting him unless it's to make a point?

I know people who have been involved in his campaign feel that the hysteria whipped up over asylum has hardened the resolve of government ministers and immigration officials.

“Frankly they want to be able to show the Daily Mail and the Daily Express that they're not being soft - and if that upsets those campaigning for people like Elton then that's too bad,” one politician told me.

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He felt that was why the government was taking a hard line on asylum seekers from Zimbabwe.

“It is ridiculous that we are sending anyone back to Zimbabwe, but it is also ridiculous that we are sending people like Elton away from Britain.

“There is a feeling in the government that those elements who are calling for a stop to deportations to Zimbabwe are those who have always been opposed to black rule there and are trying to fight old battles which were settled two decades ago.

“But at present the immigration service is trying to be seen as very tough - and until there is a fundamental change in the attitude in Britain it will continue to behave like this in cases like Elton's,” he told me.

IPSWICH council really ought to get its story straight in the saga of the Age Concern tearoom.

For years the tearoom has been seen as a valuable resource for senior citizens in the town.

It's been as much a meeting place, where friends can chat for a couple of hours over a cuppa and a rich tea, as a café.

When it was decided that its ground floor premises would be turned into a customer care centre for Ipswich council, finding a new home was a priority - and it was to be given a prominent location in one of the town's redundant churches, St Lawrence.

That was to be converted before work started on the town hall, but then it got delayed and the tearoom would move into the Corn Exchange before going into the church.

Then the Corn Exchange premises couldn't be used any more and it had to move again to the Tower Ramparts centre while it waited for work to start on St Lawrence.

Last month we were told that the church was too expensive - and then the Tower Ramparts tearoom shut because the council wasn't prepared to subsidise it to the tune of £300 a week.

By this time the story had changed completely. A year ago the tearoom was such a valuable asset to the community that it was to have its own prominent premises in a redundant church.

Now not enough people use it to justify a subsidy of £15,000 a year.

What has prompted this change of attitude? I know many tearoom customers have their own theories.

MY comments last week about the market and the Grafton march past have prompted a keen response from all sides.

The council has told me it wasn't its idea to march through the town on a Saturday forcing the market to close - it was a request from the Grafton and Army Air Corps.

I accept that - but I can't help feeling someone at Civic Centre should have said: “If you must march on Saturday you can't parade on the Cornhill because it's market day and there are people there earning a living.”

They could have paraded in front of Christchurch Mansion - or even along the Waterfront.

And someone at the council should have told them so!

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