Today, criminals are scared to leave their homes. In fact, one man was quoted as saying “We used to feel secure here, but it looks like that honeymoon is over.” But wait! I’m not done yet. Criminals are now wary of the police!
All these articles makes it sound like a bad thing that hundreds of people breaking the law are being arrested and going to jail or facing the consequence of their actions. Funny, I thought bad guys were supposed to be locked up or sent away.
I like immigrants. Legal ones. I’m really not quite sure why everyone is so upset about people doing illegal things being arrested. I wrote about this briefly once before last year.
This summer, I was on a flight from London to Entebbe. When I boarded the plane, I heard this awful screaming, like someone was being beaten or killed. The noise was coming from the back of the plane, where I was supposed to be seated. We were flying on a plane with a 2-3-2 seating arrangement and my seat was supposed to be an aisle of the 3 section in the second to last row of the plane. However, in my seat there was a woman about my age handcuffed to a boy who looked to be about 13. On the other side of him there was another person handcuffed to the boy as well. In fact, the last three rows of the 3 seat section had three people in the middle seat and 6 people in the aisle seats. The aisle seat people were immigration officers and the middle seat people were illegal immigrants who were being deported back to Uganda. There was a mother and her four children. The oldest boy and the oldest girl were handcuffed like the mother and were both screaming, just like her. There was a two year old boy who was being held by another immigration officer and a baby that was being held by yet another officer. Finally, there was also a medical nurse that was accompanying them.
I had already been delayed on my trip to Uganda and there was no way that I was getting off that flight. I was going to be on the flight even if it meant that I had to handcuff myself to the kid being deported and physically restrain him for the entire flight. The head steward directed me to stand in the galley in the back of the plane and to wait there until he could get everything sorted out with the immigration people and all of the rest of the passengers. He did guarantee me a seat at this point after I made it quite clear that I was not going to get off the plane, regardless of what kind of gut wrenching screams were coming from the seat next to me.
I started talking to one of the officers in the galley who was holding the baby boy. He explained to me the situation and what was happening. This family had entered the UK under the auspices of seeking refugee asylum. This argument was faulty by itself because when seeking refugee asylum, you have to stop in the first safe country according to international law. Now, I haven’t taken a geography class since junior high, but the UK is not the first safe country outside of Uganda, if there was even any reason to be leaving Uganda.
My first reaction when I took my seat was sorrow. I had a row of 2 seats on the side of the group of officers and their deportees. The woman was screaming that they were molesting her, that they were trying to rape her, and that they were hurting her children. She kept on telling her children to scream as well. They complied. Later that night as I stood in the galley somewhere over North Africa, I learned that the Women’s League in the UK distributed pamphlets to people that were being deported. These pamphlets would outline things they could do to stop their deportation once they were on the plane. This woman and her children had been on a plane about a week before but the woman had soiled her pants on purpose so that they would have to be removed from the flight. The screaming was meant to cause someone on the flight to complain to the cabin crew. If someone on the flight complains, the officers and their deportees would be removed from the flight (this fact was only known to me at the time, not anyone else on the flight). The officer in charge of the whole operation was moving through the cabin apologizing for the noise and promising that it would stop immediately after take off. The deportees know that once the plane takes off, there is no need to continue screaming because the flight is not going back. I genuinely felt awful knowing that all I had to do was say the word and that family could have extended their illegal stay in the UK.
But as we sat there on the tarmac, I thought about it. The two girls behind me were crying. They were semi-traveling with our group and the officer apologized to them and asked for their patience. I decided to do the right thing. I sat there.
After the plane took off, I spent most of the flight talking with the immigration officers. They explained the problems that the UK was having with illegal immigration. I joked with them that they were an island so it should obviously be easy for them to secure their borders. The man told me of the people that were dying by trying to walk through the chunnel. I guess the USA isn’t the only country that has a problem with immigrants doing very dangerous things to enter the country.
Once we took off that night, everyone quieted down. The children started watching the in-flight movies and everyone ate their dinner. The mother wasn’t allowed to leave her seat, but she was unrestrained and held her baby for most of the flight. When we arrived in Entebbe the next morning, the officers escorted the family to the Ugandan immigration office and left them there. One of the officers told me that two of the children had been born in the UK and that all four of them had different fathers.
Immigration laws need to be enforced. People need to be sent back and legal immigration needs to be promoted and enforced to protect a country, whether that be the USA or the UK. The honeymoon needs to be over.