Author Archives: James Harper

The Conservatives and asylum seekers

Anti-immigrant feeling is one of the oldest prejudices in the book. We have rightly come to expect to hear it with wearying regularity from the right-wing press and certain parts of the Conservative party.  But there is something different about the latest round of comments and policy proposals from Theresa May and co – something darker and altogether more troubling.

Until now, even the Conservatives, who have attacked ‘economic’ migrants (including students) with every kind of financial and regulatory penalty imaginable since 2010, have maintained an attitude of respect towards asylum seekers and refugees. ‘Britain has a proud and historic tradition …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 38 Comments

Opinion: Torture – taking back control of the debate

Following the publication of the Senate report into the CIA’s treatment of detainees during the ‘war on terror’, David Cameron said ‘Let us be clear. Torture is wrong, torture is always wrong’. This is undoubtedly a powerfully attractive view for anyone of a humanist disposition, concerned to condemn all violations of basic human rights.

But there is a nagging problem – the British public seem not to be so sure. A survey by Amnesty International in May this year showed that 30% of Britons believe that torture can sometimes be justified, and that 44% believe we should not rule out its use altogether – more than in Russia and China, countries where torture is endemic.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 40 Comments

Opinion: Assisted dying

LilyThe Assisted Dying Bill returns to the House of Lords this week following high-profile interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby , and his predecessor-but-one, George Carey.

While the bill may receive a second reading in the Lords, it stands little chance of progressing in the Commons. This is because key MPs, including David Cameron and Nick Clegg, are firmly against it. I respect the sincerity of Cameron and Clegg’s concerns, but I also believe their stated views show that they have not approached the issue in the right way. It is vital that any debate in the commons is open and honest, and not skewed by prejudice or emotion. MPs could do worse than begin the debate by considering the views of the two archbishops, which actually advanced the quality of the public discourse quite significantly.

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Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 17 Comments

Opinion: Thinking about “foreign criminals”

Watching the recent episode of ‘Dispatches’ on Channel 4 entitled ‘Inside Immigration’, got me thinking a bit about attitudes towards ‘foreign criminals’ in the UK. The idea of the programme was that undercover reporters worked as temps in the UK Border Agency’s processing offices and gave the inside story on the chaos and disorganisation there.

Halfway through, during a ‘pause for thought’ about the real consequences of maladministration, the narrator piped up: ‘Gabriella’s story as a shocking example of what the human cost can be when things go wrong’ at the UKBA’. But the story was somehow not what I was expecting- …

Posted in News | 9 Comments

Opinion: We must prevent another immigration “legacy”

Is there an amnesty for illegal immigrants? Keith Vaz seems determined to prove that there is, although so far without success. But the reality behind the bluster is rather more serious.

In 2007 the Home Office ‘found’ (or so the apocryphal tale goes) 500,000 asylum cases which had not been dealt with, ‘lying around’ in a room in the depths of Lunar House, Croydon.  This backlog was termed the ‘legacy’ of unresolved asylum cases.

A new department was set up and given the grisly task of looking at and resolving these cases, some of which had been untouched for over 10 years. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Opinion: Immigration service must do more to protect human dignity

The UK Border Agency’s recent decision to hire G4S and Serco to deliver the housing scheme for asylum seekers is not only a bad one in its own right. It is symptomatic of the deep inadequacy of an organisation that exists purely to deal with people, but which lacks the same standards and people-focused ethos we expect of other organisations responsible for looking after human beings.

Last week we discovered that asylum seekers in the Midlands have had their doors painted red by the company responsible for housing and accommodating them, G4S. G4S did not think this would be a problem. …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 3rd May - 1:19pm
    But Nick, that mainly explains why the doctors support the strikes. What's so wrong with accepting the contract? Doctors have a duty of care to...
  • User AvatarTom Papworth 3rd May - 1:16pm
    I am surprised this is constitutionally controversial. Parliament does and always has defined who can and cannot vote. It would be odd if the High...
  • User AvatarGeoffrey Payne 3rd May - 1:12pm
    I really object to the language in this article. Historically Liberals do support an ethical foreign policy and that notably includes William Gladstone. It is...
  • User AvatarPsi 3rd May - 1:09pm
    Jayne Mansfield “It has worked because people no longer have to suffer the appalling racial abuse and open hostility of my youth” Perhaps I am...
  • User AvatarNick Baird 3rd May - 12:56pm
    @Eddie - the public backs the strikes because they understand that once the new contract was imposed, strike action was the only option left to...
  • User AvatarPeter Parsons 3rd May - 12:39pm
    @Roland, they absolutely do (as do junior doctors currently), and have out hours unsocial payments as part of that deal: http://www.nhsemployers.org/your-workforce/pay-and-reward/nhs-terms-and-conditions/nhs-terms-and-conditions-of-service-handbook/unsocial-hours-payments My concern is that...