Monday, 11 October 2010

When an "illegal immigrant" has the X Factor

I have confessed it before and I will confess again – I watch the X Factor, and I like some of the singers that have appeared on the programme. Along with quite a few other viewers (apparently 250, 000 have signed up to a relevant facebook site) I was taken, in the latest competition, by the brief performances of Gamu Nenghu, and was surprised when Cheryl Cole told her “I am afraid it’s a no”, and she was off the show. Whatever criteria were used it did seem odd that after three perfect vocals Gamu was eliminated in favour of others whose attempts seemed less polished. Maybe Gamu was considered not to have “pop star potential”, but there also seemed to be something odd in the way Cheryl C (or is it back to T now?) delivered the bad news. Then, as most of you will undoubtedly have heard, it emerged that Gamu and her family faced the very real possibility of removal from the U.K. to Zimbabwe, the country of their birth. There has been much speculation about the reasons for the threat of removal; this BBC report, quoting the family’s solicitor, seems to be accurate. 
The tabloid press must have had a pretty hard time with this, wanting to boost circulation by riding the wave of popular support for Gamu whilst also not wanting to stem their relentless tide of anti-immigrant propaganda. Some red-top articles have been sympathetic to the family, only to be followed by a tirade of “send-them-home” abuse in the readers’ comments section. I wish all the X Factor contestants well, but I would have liked Gamu to continue to hear more of her singing. But this is of course a triviality compared to the threat, to her and her family, of removal to Zimbabwe. So, just to do my bit, I will confront some of the arguments I have encountered on this matter: 

“They are illegal immigrants and should be sent back.” 

The family have been staying in the U.K. legally, on the mother’s visa. Her application for renewal of the visa was recently refused, but, as the family’s solicitor has argued, this is likely to be down to an administrative error. When the renewal was refused the family were given time to leave the U.K. voluntarily; to date this deadline has not been reached and so the family are still here legally. It also seems likely that there will be either an appeal or a judicial review of the case, and the family will then be allowed to remain, at least until a further determination is made.
It has also been suggested that the removal of Gamu, who has spent most of her childhood in the United Kingdom, would itself be illegal as a breach of both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. 

“Gamu should not get special treatment.” 

She deserves fair and humane treatment. Many immigrants are not treated fairly and humanely, as this excellent article shows, so this becomes an argument for improving the treatment of immigrants generally, not for removing Gamu and her family. The fact that many immigrants are treated unjustly is no argument for treating this particular family unjustly. The publicity and campaigning for Gamu may benefit immigrants generally by highlighting the injustices of “border control” and the immigration system. 

“Gamu’s mother is a benefit cheat.” 

This is not the view of the family’s lawyer, who said “...Mrs Ngazana [Gamu’s mother] was advised by the Inland Revenue that she was entitled to claim Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and that it was aware of her immigration status.” 

There are, of course, many more general arguments relating to the immigration debate, covered by hundreds of thousands of web. A recent analysis for The Financial Times reached some conclusions that might come as a surprise to many: 

- The notion that natives inevitably lose out when immigrants take jobs was dismissed as “misguided”. 

- “Looking at the UK workforce as a whole, the rapid influx of migrants over the past decade has in fact had little impact on wages” (though where it has had an impact, the poor have mostly been the ones to lose out. Then again, “It is worth pointing out that many of those at the bottom end were themselves originally migrants). 

- “Despite lurid headlines about benefit scroungers, there is little evidence to support fears that migrants take more money out of the economy than they put in overall” 

- “Research by Christian Dustmann at UCL, a leading authority in the field, shows migrants from eastern Europe are putting far more into the economy than they take out” 

- Probability of natives claiming benefits: 39.7%.  Probability of immigrants from east European countries that joined the EU in 2004 claiming benefits: 16.4%. 

So, in conclusion, Gamu and her family should stay...and so should many others who have been branded as “illegal immigrants.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Thursday, 12 August 2010

David Jones Twitter

A recent exchange on Twitter, between myself and David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West:

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Guinea Refugees

The desperate plight of refugees hit the headlines recently with the case of two young boys who fled the west African state of Guinea. Fodé Tounkara, aged 14, and his 15 year old friend Yaguine Koita were found frozen to death in the undercarriage of a Sabena plane in Belgium. The boys had prepared carefully for the trip from Conakry, the capital of deeply impoverished Guinea, next to civil war torn Sierra Leone. They had put on several pairs of thin trousers, pullovers and jackets in an attempt to survive temperatures of minus 55 degrees during the flight to Brussels via Mali. But their bodies were found clinging to the plane's landing gear, having died of hypothermia and oxygen shortage. The teenagers may have been on board for up to ten days before their bodies were found.

The case has struck a chord because of a moving note that was found on one of the boys. It is a plea for help from Europe, especially to improve education for the suffering young people of Africa.

It is addressed to the 'Excellencies, gentlemen members and responsible citizens of Europe.' The note reads, 'Please help us... We have war, sickness, hunger, etc. In Guinea we have many schools but a great lack of education... only in private schools can you get a good education, but you need a large sum of money. If you see that we have sacrificed ourselves and lost our lives, it is because we suffer too much in Africa and need your help to struggle against poverty and war. We want to study and ask you to help us become like you in Africa... Please excuse us very much for daring to write this letter.'

The letter forced the Belgian government onto the defensive. The development minister had to promise more aid to the Third World. And when the bodies were flown back to Guinea they were given a full ceremonial departure from Brussels airport, and were accompanied by the Guinean ambassador and a representative of the Belgian government.

Had the boys arrived alive in Brussels, however, the response from the government would almost certainly have been different. They would have been hustled straight into a detention centre, pending deportation, and their letter would have been read only by a police official or an immigration officer.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


I have decided to create a seperate blog for all my music-related stuff. I will carry on posting non-music stuff here, and eventually delete the music stuff which I have copied to the new blog.

The new music blog address is:

Please do follow me there as well! The latest entries include a Diana Vickers gig review and an interview with Kate McGill.

Thanks, Nick.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

COMEDY: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais: I thought 'The Office' and 'Extras' were both brilliant. I am not a huge fan of his 'stand-up' comedy, it's a bit hit and miss. The same goes for 'the Invention of Lying', but he can do 'serious' acting, as the clips below show, I think.

He is spot on here with Simon Cowell, who seems to take it very well.

This scene occurs towards the end (*spoiler alert*) of the Extras Xmas Special. Andy's speech hits about a thousand nails right on the head. It's too dramatic to be funny and shows he can do 'serious' acting. I fell in love with Maggie; a good performance from Ashley Jensen.

Too tragic to be funny, again.

Friday, 5 March 2010


A few words appear to be missing from the cover of the published version.