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Maya The Cat


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I have so far refrained from any mention of cats, although I came THIS close to asking in examination in chief yesterday whether my clients owned a cat…

You can read the disputed determination for yourself here, courtesy of The New Statesman. You can also read the reasons for yourself. Theresa May was ‘making it up’, basically. Alex Mik has sent in a more thoughtful piece on human rights reporting generally, which I am happy to reproduce below.

As a postscript to the judgment, Maya the Cat is still apparently going strong, as are the gay couple at the centre of the determination. You’d have thought The Daily Mail would be happy about that, but apparently not…

Can we have a little more responsible journalism please?

Much has been written recently about Daily Mail reporting, specifically their dreadful handling of the Amanda Knox trial. This has been covered by a number of better qualified outlets so I won’t focus on this. My attention was drawn to the Daily Mail’s reporting of what is being imaginatively tiled ‘catgate’. It was not the first time my attention had been drawn to it, as it was when the story was originally published in the Sunday Telegraph back in 2009. The story was inaccurate then and it continues to be inaccurate now. The problem is that the mistakes are getting bigger, and there is no need for them.

As soon as Mrs May mentioned the cat people were trying to find the case. The UK Human Rights Blog had time to publish two articles about it, the first of which gave a link to the actual Upper Tier Tribunal determination. The determination makes clear that the cat was irrelevant to the decision to let the individual remain in this country (The decision was reached because the Home Office were not following their own guidance). This was published around 2pm on 4th October. How is it then that two days later the Daily Mail’s front page article offers a story exclaiming “Truth about Tory catfight: Judge DID rule migrant’s pet was a reason he shouldn’t be deported”? It is the capitals that catch the attention. Much like Mrs May’s “and I’m not making this up”, it is almost as if they feel if they emphasise their mistake it will make more people accept it as truth.

Are we to believe that the piece, which actually credits three authors, was a genuine mistake? That not one of the three established journalists picked up on the accurate story? Or is it that they just preferred their story, as it fit into a wider narrative about the Human Rights Act being something with which criminals are somehow able to cheat the system and remain in this country, no doubt in a 6 bedroom council mansion complete with giant flatscreen tv.  The same goes for Mrs May. Did nobody in her camp check the facts? Or is it a case of throwing enough mud and seeing what sticks.

I haven’t the time or the inclination to check every story the tabloids publish, but I’ve followed immigration stories with interest. Here are some recent examples:

“Nigerian rapist who can’t be deported because European judges say it would violate his right to family life” ­This article appeared in on 20th September 2011. It was an account of Akindoyin Akinshipe, “24, who was due to be sent home after losing appeal after appeal in the British courts over his jailing for an attack on a girl of 13”. While I’m not disputing that a terrible crime took place, the article wilfully misleads the reader, the crime having taken place when Akinshipe was 15. Rape is a serious crime (a crime for which he was punished), but the paper’s take on it adds a paedophilic dimension, creating an image of the individual as a sexual predator. Again, I’m not trivialising the crime, which was extremely serious, but the individual was sentences for his crime and he served his sentence. The newspaper in question or the readership may take issue with the sentence but that is an entirely different debate, and has little to do with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. As the paper points out, ‘the probation service said there was a low risk of him committing further offences”, and in the time the Home Office took to decide to attempt to deport him “he had obtained three A-levels, and he was about to finish a degree in economics and banking”. Leaving aside the various moral arguments around bankers and economists, this individual had by most accounts turned his life around. That the newspaper should try and hold him up as a poster boy for their campaign against the Human Rights Act is depressing.

On 14th September 2011, the same paper had a story with the headline “98,000 asylum seekers have been ‘lost’ by bungling immigration workers”. Part way through the article it explains that “Many have been told they must leave but are mounting human rights or other legal challenges to escape deportation.” This is painted in a negative light. It entirely ignores the fact that many of these asylum seekers would not be mounting human rights or other legal challenges to escape deportation if there wasn’t an argument to be made. Many of these people have been here for over a decade, waiting for the Home Office to sort themselves out. A lot have been given permission to work and do so, paying taxes, contributing to society while unable to leave the country until their claim is decided. There is also an entirely separate article to be written about the tabloid’s liberal interchanging of ‘asylum seekers’ , ‘refugees’ and ‘illegal immigrants’. Refugee Council for one offer training on this sort of thing. Suggest one or two editors take them up on it.

“Most migrants on a marriage visa have never visited the UK before”, appeared on 15th September 2011. This is probably just me, one of those liberal elites that the government have talked about, but I can’t see how this is a problem. I’ve found that generally marriages aren’t about countries, they’re about the two people getting married. Really, this kind of thing should probably be encouraged by these anti-immigration espousers.  I suspect a lot of spouses upon getting here and seeing the kind of headlines spewed out by our most popular newspapers will feel unwelcome and leave again, taking their partner with them, providing more room for the rest of us. It should also be pointed out that there isn’t a requirement in the rules for spouses to have visited here (possibly because it would make courtships unnecessarily expensive), as the Immigration Rules are more focused on important things like ensuring the marriage is genuine and subsisting. In addition the article raises concerns that “many of those coming here to marry or to join partners have little knowledge and understanding of British culture.” I’m 25 years old, have spent most of my life in the UK, and I’m not sure what British culture it is that they’re talking about. Is it the binge drinking culture I read so much of in the same papers? Is it the films or music? I suspect a lot of applicants have heard of Keira Knightley, Ian McKellen and the Beatles. Realistically our best bits are exported, you don’t ever need to have been to this country to enjoy The Office, our cricket team or our cuisine.

On 22nd February 2011 the same paper produced an article headed “Immigration fears of the young as almost three-quarters say it is a problem.” Is it any wonder that this is the case when the young are fed such irresponsible journalism on such a regular basis.

As we’ve been told by our political leaders countless times, there needs to be a debate about immigration but we cannot have one while so many, the Home Secretary included, are so badly misinformed.

Alex Mik

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


7 Responses

  1. Theresa May’s comments just demonstrate how little respect she has for British judges when their judgements do not conform to her expectations. Perhaps she needs to be reminded of the purpose of checks and balances and separation of powers.
    Obviously Daily Mail is willfully misrepresenting the story; however, both sides in this debate are not being completely honest. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with most of the arguments above but belittling other side’s fears and mocking at them is hardly conducive to a genuine debate on immigration. While ‘our/British/European culture and values’ is an elusive expression, we should not pretend that we do not know what it refers to, at least broadly. And no, it’s not binge drinking, films or music but it is fairness, equality, division between state and religion, and -somewhat ironically – tolerance and human rights. You could say that these are universal values and not particularly British or European ones and point to the Arab Spring. Yet the emphasis placed on each of them and the desire to uphold them varies across the world. If we keep accusing the other side of bigotry, dismissing their arguments and lecturing them all the time we won’t get anywhere.

  2. Newspaper like politicians wants people to follow and accept them. Of course they will talk about all the negative sides of immigration since the British belief nowadays is immigration is bad. Why would they want to waste time and space to talk about about the positive side of the story when no one wants to know? Plus its for propaganda purposes…everytime they want to make a change in the immigraion law, something negative is always published in the news beforehand…it will make it easier for people to accept the restrictive law when it is annouced even if it means the sacrifice of human rights.

  3. MS misses out one other fundamental characteristic of our culture; the rule of law. However, of late successive governments and the Home Office routinely ignore this is in such an un-British fashion. PS I’m not sure that the Daily Mail/Express would agree that there are shared European values, “Bl**dy Poles coming over here with their notions of fairness and equality” more like.

  4. I did wonder what you thought about this when I heard about it FM…I’m glad you’ve highlighted it.

  5. Hi Alex, thanks for the catch up on the latest ‘gems’ of migrant related reporting in the British media. Just to point out: H.O and journalists are NOT missinformed. They are, and I am not making this up, using RACIST and XENOPHOBIC discursive devises to advance a political agenda: let’s focus on demonizing migrants so that the public stops thinking about and resisting the overwhelming slashing of public services and the destruction of a hard won welfare state.

    Well…, but what can you expect of a goverment that, on the one hand mocks human rights legislation (Cameron’s ‘fooney’ comment) and in the other is so readily prepared to invade other countries and bail out a banking system to the expense of its own people?

  6. This comment was sent in by AH:

    “The story plummeted to new depths of nastiness when the Daily Mail traced the couple and, apparently, the British partner’s elderly mother. It managed to suggest in its subsequent report that her son has misled the tribunal over his relationship to his dying, now late, father and hoodwinked his aged mother in writing a letter of support of the Article 8 application. Had I been doorstopped by a Daily Mail journalist bent on making life a misery for my son, I might well have said I did not know where my son lived in London. I might well have said that I recalled writing some letter for a court, but did not remember what it was about. Just to get rid of the journalist, and to try to protect my son.”