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  • Writer's pictureIrungu Houghton

Foreigners who break law on our soil shouldn’t be spared

Updated: Jan 21

The deportation of four Chinese nationals for work permit violations and use of corporal punishment in a workplace caught national headlines. Nine thousand kilometres away, the deportation of seventeen British Caribbean Africans from Britain has been even more controversial this week. Should Governments deport or convict foreigners and citizens who commit criminal offences?

The swift arrest, prosecution and deportation of Deng Hailan, Chang Yueping, Ou Qiang and Yu Ling are not the first. Like the other deportations, it all starts with a smart-phone and a video clip that goes viral. In the recent incident, Deng Hailan is captured caning a Kenyan employee at his place of work while others laugh. Corporal punishment of adults and children has been criminalised for over a decade in Kenya. This is not however, the case in China and several other Asian countries.

Like the racist Liu Jiaqi who had difficulties distinguishing Kenyans from monkeys and those petty traders found selling mitumba in Gikomba, the recent four found themselves on a one-way flight back to China rather than facing the Kenyan judiciary. While the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Wu Peng has reminded his citizens to abide by Kenyan law, some Kenyan lawyers have cautioned Immigration Services from arbitrary deportations without clear process or procedure. In the case of the Chez Wou restaurant four, it is a bit clearer. Overstaying a visitors’ visa is not a permit to work or beat other human beings.

This week Britain faced a major immigration controversy. Seventeen British Caribbean-Africans who have lived most of their lives in the United Kingdom were deported to Jamaica. If the High Court had not stopped the Government, a further twenty-five British nationals would also have been on the flight. The scandal has shaken Britain’s claim to be a multi-cultural society and exposed a rising white nationalism.

The majority of the UK deportees had been found guilty of crimes ranging from firearms and drug handling offences to rape and sexual offences. Fourteen of deportees had been found guilty of non-violent petty crimes while the remaining ten had committed violent or sexual offences. They included a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours of Afghanistan and Owen Haisley, (popular DJ MC Madrush) who has completed a jail term and community service.

Critics of the UK program argue that what all these people have in common is that they are black. They also have no roots anymore in the Caribbean. Permanently deporting them from their families, children and country is a much harsher sentence than serving time for criminal offences. This week’s deportation touches many historical nerves. They include four centuries of Government enslavement and forced migration of Africans to work the British colonies, the mass deportation of British convicts to British colonies in the nineteenth century and the approved mass influx of the “Windrush” population to fill British labor shortages in the 1950s.

The deportations this week directly stem from the current “hostile environment” policy. Coined by former Prime Minister Teresa May, the policy is very similar to US President Donald Trump’s “deport first, appeal later” approach to migrants. Under the Immigration Act (2014), landlords, the National Health Service, NGOs, community centers and banks must carry out ID checks before providing essential services. "Go Home" vans and notices have been placed in newspapers, shops and places of worship used by ethnic minorities.

The measures have resulted in the deportation of more than 87 highly skilled teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and technology professionals over the last year. Some of them had lived in the UK for ten years and have British children. Most were deported at 14 days-notice and declared ineligible to apply for visas to return. The wider impact has been to create an under-class of ethnic minority families who have no access to social services and the rule of law. Fearing arrest and deportation, thousands now avoid reporting criminals to the police, paying taxes or accessing education and health services.

Britain is obviously not alone in this. Most of today’s populist nationalist leaders have declared their intention to make their nations “great again”. In practice, this has come with policies that racially discriminate against ethnic minorities at home as well as isolate their nations from international bodies like the United Nations and the European Union.

There are lessons for Kenya also. Foreign nationals, migrants and refugees are entitled to protection under the Bill of Rights. They must also respect and be held accountable to our laws. This may require foreign nationals to face the consequences of breaking our laws on our soil.

First published Saturday Standard, January 15, 2020. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard Group


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