Lib Dems misrepresent the immigration 14 year rule

On The Politics Show moments ago Liberal Democrat, Ed Davey, defended that party’s proposed amnesty for people who have broken the law by entering Britain illegally or staying beyond the length of their visa conditions. He then went on to claim that both Labour and the Conservatives also support an amnesty for illegal immigrants, but just won’t talk about it.

Liberal Democrats stand out even from other politicians for their sheer disssembling deviousness, so it seems only proper to check their claim about other parties’ support for this so called 14 year rule.  The most up to date details of the 14 year rule can be found on the Migration Expert website, but what is clear is the rule is not inspired by party politics.  The site explains on Friday, 24 April 2009 that:

A person’s application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (permanent residence) on the basis of 14 years residence cannot be refused because he/she has lived in the UK ‘unlawfully’ or ‘worked unlawfully’, according to a recent decision by the Court of Appeal.

Moreover, even if someone has obtained false identity documents in order to obtain work where the person has no right to work, it should not be held against him/her.

The Home Office recognized that applicants under the rule, if they were to be successful, must be expected to have worked unlawfully for the majority of their time here. The Court said that the reasons for obtaining false identity documents should be carefully considered, i.e., if it is intended to commit financial fraud (which is serious) or merely to obtain work (which is less serious).

In this case, the applicant was a 50-year-old Bangladeshi national who arrived in the UK in 1991 on a visitor’s visa. In 2006, he applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK on the ground of 14-year long residence, relying on the Immigration Rules.

The rule in question provides that the requirements for ILR on the ground of long residence includes two main factors: the applicant must have lived in the UK for a continuous 14 year period, and, having regard to the public interest, there are no reasons why it would be undesirable for the applicant to be given ILR on the ground of long residence, taking into account his age, strength of connections in the UK and his personal history, amongst others.

The Court of Appeal interpreted the rule as specifically directed to people who had managed to stay in the UK for 14 years or more without lawful authority, and was, therefore, in effect an amnesty clause. This is because, in every such case, the nature of the applicant’s stay was unlawful and its extent was 14 years or more.

The Court of Appeal found that the whole purpose of the 14 year rule (by which illegal immigrants can eventually seek to legalise their status after 14 continuous years residence in the UK) would be undermined if too strict an approach was followed in relation to the public policy exemptions.

Clearly the issue is not as cut and dried as Ed Davey tries to make out.  It also explains why Davey said that until recently William Hague was apparently unaware of the rule.  In all honesty it is hard for somone to support something they are unaware of.  If the Liberal Democrats were honest they would not present this 14 year rule as if it was something debated in Parliament, voted upon and enshrined in legislation.  It wasn’t.  Instead, as you can see above, it is another example of judicial activism that, incredibly, sets aside the illegality of someone’s behaviour and seeks to reward them for having got away with a criminal act.  This is another example of judges writing the law rather than simply enforcing it and it underlines the emasculation of Parliament.

The Lib Dems have blatantly misrepresented the situation.  They claim that under the Conservatives while Michael Howard was Home Secretary, thousands of people were given official status, and describe that as effectively an amnesty.  Same also for Jack Straw under the Labour government.  But there is a big difference between those actions and what Nick Clegg is proposing.  Those people granted leave to remain had applied for asylum, failed, but were allowed to stay.  That is very different to people arriving here, staying off the immigration radar, entering the black economy and attempting to remain having made no attempt to regularise their status.  People applying for asylum are not the same as illegal immigrants.  They are not breaking the law if they arrive and follow due process, unless of course their claim is bogus and fallacious.

Granting failed asylum seekers leave to remain is, in my opinion, the wrong thing to do and should never have happened. But it is in no way an amnesty.  An amnesty is the forgiving of an illegal act and applying for asylum is not an illegal act.  What the Lib Dems are proposing is an amnesty in the true meaning of the word.  It is not about failed asylum seekers; it is targeted at illegal immigrants, people who made a conscious decision to stay here beyond their visa permission, or who came here for economic reasons and hope to benefit from their law breaking.  Yet again we see deliberate distortion and misrepresentation from the Liberal Democrats.

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3 Responses to “Lib Dems misrepresent the immigration 14 year rule”

  1. 1 Tim 02/05/2010 at 12:43 pm

    For all your protestations, what is clear is that the 14-year rule is in place as a common practice and what is equally clear is that Labour and the Conservatives have no plan to do anything about it. They must realise it exists and therefore (one can justly assume) they tacitly agree to its application. All the while they disingenuously attack the Lib Dems for having a policy on the matter, even though the Lib Dems’ policy is at least transparent (which cannot be said for the Tories or Labour on this issue) and even though the Lib Dems seek a stricter policy than the 14-year rule which is in place! I’m sorry, but the party with egg on its face on this matter is not the Lib Dems. Shame on the other parties for not engaging in the debate properly and for misleading the public.

  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 02/05/2010 at 2:37 pm

    I hold no brief for Labour or the Cameron Tories. But I do resent the kind of hypocrisy demonstrated by the Lib Dems. There is a huge difference between asylum seekers and illegal immigrants and for the Lib Dems to suggest their amnesty plan is simply the same as the 14 year rule – however outrageous that practice is in any case – is not just disingenuous, it is a lie. I agree with you that they all should be ashamed, but trying to position the Lib Dems as in some way having more integrity is just ludicrous.

  3. 3 jameshigham 02/05/2010 at 10:11 pm

    It might not be egg on the face but it has certainly contributed to the Lib Dem drop in the polls. The 80% immigration from Europe was another.

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