Standing with the Kamil family

Yesterday was my daughter’s graduation. Before heading to the ceremony, I joined with another family, the Kamils, outside the Glasgow Immigration office to mark a massive family milestone of their own.

Two weeks ago, this family went on hunger strike in desperation of 14 years of frustration, legal delays and uncertainty on their immigration status.

As Iraqi Kurds, the Kamils no longer have a home in their own country and have made a life here in Scotland. The eldest son runs a successful Internet business, their second son is an engineering graduate and a Scottish boxing champion, their daughter has been accepted to study law.

Thankfully, with the intervention of their MP Paul Sweeney, the Kamils secured a meeting with the Home Office and called off the hunger strike. Now the Kamils have been granted indefinite leave to remain, so our gathering was one of celebration, not protest.

After 18 years in this country, 14 years in limbo, ordinary family milestones matter. Families come to this country fleeing persecution, and it is despicable that they are faced with a hostile environment.

The deliberate government policy of hostile environment is abhorrant to anyone respectful of human rights. Theresa May’s policy reads like an incitement to racist abuse. Families like the Kamils are not over here stealing our jobs and claiming our benefits, but contributing to the greater good. Scotland’s aging population needs young families to live and work among us, not drive them away.

Thousands of Home Office staff, currently taking part in national ballot for industrial action on pay, know only too well the impact of cuts on increased workplaces. Civil servants are put under pressure by govt policies driving targets for arrested of suspected illegal Immigrants.

It came to light recently that Immigration officers were encouraged to compete to arrest the highest number of suspected illegal migrants and rewarded with a box of Roses, PCS Union was quick to condemn this practice. We have seen similar schemes lacking in compassion from management in the DWP on benefit sanctions targets. Workers should not be put in such an abhorrent position. Most people join the civil service because they want to help people, not punish them.

In the wake of the Windrush scandal, Theresa May’s government was forced to abandon immigration removal targets. Home Office staff should not be put in a position like this. It is becoming intolerable for those working in Immigration, with people being moved from pillar to post because of staff shortages.

PCS General Secretary, Mark Serwotka said: “Our members have been clear that they have been put under pressure to implement what have been racist policies for too long.”

PCS has also been clear from the outset: we opposed the Immigration Act 2014, and many of our members were appalled at the “hostile environment” created by then home secretary Theresa May as she sought to make political capital out of the sensitive issue of immigration.

The “Go home” vans which stalked our streets showed there were no depths to which the government would not sink to sow division in our communities and demonise the most vulnerable

Our members – many of whom work in the Home Office and the wider civil service – are dedicated, caring and conscientious. They have borne the brunt of cuts, pay restraint and increased workloads, due to the constant changes in government immigration policy.

The public should be in no doubt that PCS stands in solidarity with all those caught up in an asylum and immigration crisis which was not of their own making. And we defend resolutely the rights of our members to work in a well-resourced Home Office free from discrimination, while we push, as a union, for a humane immigration policy that respects people who decide to come to this country.