Charedim can’t duck the law
Strictly Orthodox people are trying to sneak into the UK as ‘tourists’, when they are no such thing
ANUMBER OF pressures have combined to make it harder now than it has ever been, in peacetime, to enter the UK. The first traces its origins to the heightened security alerts that followed recent terrorist attacks. The second derives from the realisation that many aliens have found it easy to enter the UK as “students”, often enrolled in sham colleges. The third grew out of mounting concern at the impact of immigrants on the UK’s social infrastructure and welfare services.
There are, no doubt, important debates still to be had in respect of each of these pressure points. Be that as it may, aliens without EU passports now find that their right of passage into the UK is not as hassle-free as it used to be. If they wish to work or study here they will need to have accumulated a high enough score in a new “pointsbased” immigration system.
Only those classified as “highly skilled migrants” can now enter the UK without a sponsor or a job offer. Only students “sponsored” by an approved learning provider will be granted entry for the purposes of study. As far as tourists are concerned, the routine stamping of passports with routine tourist visas can no longer be taken for granted. Aliens posing as would-be tourists may be asked searching questions, and if the answers do not satisfy officials of the Border and Immigration Agency, they may be incarcerated and then returned to their countries of origin.
This appears to have been precisely what happened recently to a “tourist” from Israel who reportedly had “difficulties” with the questions put to him at a Heathrow immigration desk. Threatened with prison, this gentleman was fortunate enough to secure overnight accommodation with an official of the Society for the Welfare of Jewish Prisoners, before being repatriated the following evening.
And last week two young ladies who presented themselves at Heathrow, having also arrived there on a flight from Israel claiming to be tourists, were denied entry into the UK because of their inability to name just two tourist attractions in London.
The common factor in both these cases — and in similar incidents in recent months — was that the “tourists” were Orthodox Jews. But don’t run away with the idea that these were blatant cases of discrimination against Israeli nationals, or against Jewish persons. Nothing could be further from the truth. British government officials have assured me that Israeli tourists of all faiths and ethnic origins are welcome as temporary visitors to these shores. But it is equally true that over the past year or so a small but growing number of “tourists” bearing Israeli passports have been refused entry, not because they were Israelis — or Jews — but because they failed to fully satisfy immigration officials that they were genuinely seeking entry for the purposes of tourism.
Neither had they been classified as highly-skilled migrants, nor were they holders of work-permits, nor had they been granted student visas.
So for what purposes were they seeking entry into the UK?
For some, the motivation was shidduchim — to meet a prospective bride or groom. For others, the purpose was to study, at a yeshivah or girls’ seminary. A certain portion were here to collect money for themselves or for religious institutions. And for others — a few — the purpose was almost certainly illegal employment.
Now I would concede at once that the word “tourist”, in its ordinary, common-sense meaning, could very conceivably encompass the visitor who seeks a marriage partner. In any event, there is a dialogue to be had with the UK immigration authorities to resolve this matter.
However it’s my experience that not all those in charge of yeshivot or seminaries in the UK are aware of the new rules governing the entry of nonEU students. Relatively few of these institutions appear on the UK government’s register of approved education and training providers — always assuming (and this is doubtful) that they have bothered to apply. Unless an institution appears on this register, and with effect from this month, no prospective student will obtain a visa to study there.
Last year I responded positively to an invitation from the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons to give evidence on the need to underpin the policing of this register. If I say so myself, the new rules are based in part on my recommendations. You may rest assured, therefore, that I will do my very best to see that they are ruthlessly applied.