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.

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