Sunday, 18 May 2014

Voluntary Repatriation - on the statute book in the UK since 1971

Hope not Hate - attacking UKIP for daring to mention a
law on the statute books since at least 1971, and one signed
up to on a European level by Labour PM Tony Blair
UKIP MEP and Newark by-election candidate Roger Helmer is today targeted by a piece in the Observer for 'backing voluntary repatriation'. It is also heavily plastered over Hope not Hate's Facebook page, where the usual tribe of commenters proclaim loudly how it is 'a disgrace', 'racist' and 'like the Nazis'.

Sadly for them, the voluntary repatriation of migrants is already existing government policy, and the current scheme was introduced by Labour PM Tony Blair in 1999 when he signed the UK up to the 'European Return Fund', which helped 'managed migration' by, erm, sending foreigners home.

In the UK, this is dealt with by the charity 'Refugee Action', who administer the scheme on behalf of the UK government and the European Commission as a part of the VARRP, or Voluntary Assisted Return and Repatriation Programme. This deals with the voluntary repatriation of legal migrants within the UK.

Up until 2010, there was also a similar programme for illegal (or 'irregular', in jargon speak) migrants, called AVRIM, or Assisted Voluntary Return of Irregular Migrants.

The hypocrisy of attacking Helmer for a programme which has been operated under both Tory and Labour government - and which a Labour government signed us up to - is clear enough. As for the background of such a policy, we suspect that the European Return Fund has its roots in the Dublin Convention of 1997, which dealt with asylum seeking within the European Union and which was responsible for the UK being landed with a significant proportion of the EU's asylum seekers because of such short-sighted negotiations by the Major government in its dying days.

The scheme is much older than that though. According to an internal UKIP briefing paper rapidly produced yesterday afternoon, a voluntary repatriation scheme was outlined and included in Section 29 of the Immigration Act 1971: the provisions were repealed and replaced by S58 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (passed by Labour's Blair government) which states:

58 Voluntary departure from United Kingdom

(1)A person is a “voluntary leaver” for the purposes of this section if—

(a)he is not a British citizen or an EEA national,

(b)he leaves the United Kingdom for a place where he hopes to take up permanent residence (his “new place of residence”), and

(c)the Secretary of State thinks that it is in the person’s interest to leave the United Kingdom and that the person wishes to leave.

(2)The Secretary of State may make arrangements to—

(a)assist voluntary leavers;

(b)assist individuals to decide whether to become voluntary leavers.

(3)The Secretary of State may, in particular, make payments (whether to voluntary leavers or to organisations providing services for them) which relate to—

(a)travelling and other expenses incurred by or on behalf of a voluntary leaver, or a member of his family or household, in leaving the United Kingdom;

(b)expenses incurred by or on behalf of a voluntary leaver, or a member of his family or household, on or shortly after arrival in his new place of residence;

(c)the provision of services designed to assist a voluntary leaver, or a member of his family or household, to settle in his new place of residence;

(d)expenses in connection with a journey undertaken by a person (with or without his family or household) to prepare for, or to assess the possibility of, his becoming a voluntary leaver.

We look forward to reading Hope not Hate's article claiming Tony Blair is a racist for passing such legislation.

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