For immigration lawyers Paddington is a walking, talking, ursine pin-up for humanising our work.
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An immigration lawyer reviews Paddington

“If detected by the authorities, Paddington would in all likelihood be detained in one of our virulently multiplying private immigration detention spaces.”

Law is pretty abstract. Unlike the role of a doctor or a builder, that of a lawyer is difficult to explain to a young mind. When my children eventually ask me about what I do when I “work” (confusingly simultaneously a place I seem to go to and a thing I do at home; either takes me away from them) my plan is to explain that I help strangers from far off places find new homes. Like Paddington Bear.

I never knew the Michael Bond books as a child but among immigration lawyers Paddington is a walking, talking, ursine pin-up for humanising our work. For this reason I added an illustrated adaptation of the first books to our bookshelves at home. Writing this now I wonder if that’s why I make my own marmalade, although I admit that I cheat by using Mamade. At only four and two and half my children are really a bit too young, but it is why I dragged them along to the cinema to see the film version this weekend.

Reviewing films isn’t exactly a skill of mine. The acting seemed good and all that. Paddington was life-like and his Hard Stare very convincing. Nicole Kidman was as terrifying as ever. Hugh Bonneville gamely communicated the anxieties of modern fatherhood. Sally Hawkins stayed just about the right side of fruitcake. Julie Walters sounded more or less Scottish. Peter Capaldi was ultimately pathetic, in a good way given this was his intended portrayal of the miserable and xenophobic neighbour, Mr Curry. The children seemed, um, realistically childlike to me.

Photo: Allstar/Studio Canal

As immigration lawyer, I am more interested in Paddington as client.

Paddington as migrant

Seeking a new home in a far away land, his own having been devastated by disaster, Paddington stows away to London. His link to London derives from a colonial-style explorer his aunt and uncle once met. His English is learned from that era and sounds quaintly old fashioned to cosmopolitan ears. In his new environment his customs and manners cause all sorts of misunderstandings. Some open-minded, open-hearted individuals welcome him. Others reject him. Some merely turn their backs but others are more overtly hostile, worried that more of his kind will follow. Paddington learns and adapts — to an extent — and finds a place in his new host society.

Paddington’s story is that of the modern migrant. He is in many ways typical of my clients. This is more than a mere subtext to the film and it is, I hope, instructive to consider his tale from a legal perspective.

Legal analysis

Paddington The Illegal Entrant

Paddington stows away and deliberately avoids the immigration authorities on arrival. He is in formal legal terms an illegal entrant and as such commits a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971. It is an offence punishable by up to six months in prison. If or when detected by the authorities it is more likely he would simply be removed back to Peru than that he would be prosecuted, though. To avoid that fate he would need to make out a legal basis to stay.

Incidentally, for offering a home to Paddington — or harbouring him, as the Home Office would have it — Mr and Mrs Brown could potentially face prosecution under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971, entitled “Assisting unlawful immigration to member State”. The maximum sentence is 14 years.

Paddington And The Refugee Convention

Although he seeks refuge from a natural disaster, Paddington would not qualify as a refugee under the terms of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Refugee status can only be claimed by those fleeing persecution for certain specified reasons and natural disasters are not among them.

The Home Office would not believe Paddington anyway. Unless reported in specific country information sources, the earthquake would be considered a fiction. It would be observed that genuine refugees supposedly travel to countries close to them rather than far away ones. They don’t, of course, and many have the kind of cultural and language ties that bring Paddington to London. Paddington does not claim asylum at the first opportunity, another consideration to be held against him. His lack of knowledge of the immigration system would be no defence. Words like “liar” or “untrue” are for some reason avoided by civil servants; instead they would say in more sanitised and impersonal tones that Paddington’s “credibility” was damaged and his account “not accepted”.

The refusal letter would go on to say — asylum refusals appear to be auto-generated by an early and imperfect type of form filling software — that even if the earthquake had occurred and Paddington was a genuine victim, he could easily relocate within Peru to another remote jungle area, or if necessary to a village, town or city. The authorities of Peru would be able to provide protection.

Human Rights For Bears

There are some obvious obstacles to Paddington’s reliance on the Human Rights Act 1998. Let us for the sake of argument extend its application to bears, though. Paddington quickly settles into the Brown family, who open their hearts and love him as one of their own. With his Aunt Lucy unable to care for him any longer, they are his only family. You might think, therefore, that the right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on, er, Human Rights would help him.

“I’m not making this up…” Photo: Tomi Tapio K, on Flickr

Not so. Human rights are hugely controversial, thought by many politicians to be the aide only of criminals and terrorists. The Home Office position is that Article 8 is fully incorporated into the UK’s immigration rules. Those rules would not recognise Paddington as being a family member and he does not fall into any of the private life categories either. If a child he would need to show seven years of residence and that it would not be reasonable for him to go back to Peru. There is no other route to success for a child.

If an adult, Paddington would need to show “very significant obstacles to the applicant’s integration into the country to which he would have to go if required to leave the UK.” See paragraph 276ADE of the Immigration Rules. Any sign of integration into society in the UK would be taken down and used against him in evidence, so to speak; if he can adapt to life in the UK he can jolly well go back and adapt again to life in Peru, it would be said by the Home Office.

A judge might potentially treat Paddington’s case more flexibly, at least, but would be bound by the terms of the Immigration Act 2014. This instructs judges in the weight to be given to different considerations. Paddington’s mastery of the English language weighs in his favour. His lack of apparent financial independence and his unlawful immigration status weigh against him, and his private and family life would be given reduced weight because it was established at a time when his status was precarious. See section 19 of the Immigration Act 2014. Judges will recognise that family life can, exceptionally, extend to informal adoptions and that private life amounts to more than a mere period of residence, but I would nevertheless assess Paddington’s prospects of success before an immigration judge as virtually zero.

A formal adoption might change this. I know of one such case in real life, by a truly special human being who really did open her heart to a young Paddington.

A Lost Child

We are unaware of Paddington’s age. He seems young and is certainly a lot smaller than his aunt and uncle. The overt reference to Second World War child evacuees in the film and implied reference in the books suggest that he may be a child, as does his naivety. Although he would not be aware of it, a great deal would turn on whether Paddington has yet turned 18. If not, he would be regarded as an “Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child” (UASC), one of the worst and most dehumanising acronyms to stain the Home Office lexicon. He would be entitled to additional care and support from the local authority responsible (Westminster, incidentally), would be placed in foster care if appropriate and would be allowed to stay until he was 17 and a half. After that, like the Afghan children amongst us, he would usually be forced to leave.

With the uncertainty over his appearance, though, Paddington would really struggle to prove his age. Like many others, he brought only provisions (marmalade) and the clothes he wore (a red hat), not identity documents (his label doesn’t really provide much in the way of detail). We see his aunt and uncle but the Home Office age assessor would not. As with many others with an unusual appearance and no documentary proof, the Home Office would probably assess his age as being over 18 and treat him as if he were an adult.

Paddington Behind Bars

If detected by the authorities, perhaps in a dawn raid on the Browns, the authorities having been tipped off by Mr Curry on David Cameron’s “shop-a-neighbour” hotline, Paddington would in all likelihood be detained in one of our virulently multiplying private immigration detention spaces. Unless the Peruvian embassy accepted him as one of their nationals, he would languish there indefinitely, generating profits for the private contractor and costing the public purse a small fortune. The Home Office would be unable to remove him but as a point of principle would be unwilling to let him go.

Like others caught in apparently indefinite administrative detention, his mental and physical health would likely deteriorate. The atmosphere inside the detention centres can be poisonous. For an inkling, take a look at this six-minute video from 29 November 2014 and listen to the very ordinary voices who speak. Paddington would be in a sorry state after a few months.

Paddington’s Future

Like many others in his position, Paddington tries to get on with his life. The film only captures his first days in the United Kingdom, so we never find out how he gets on.

Paddington is hunted, though, and we see that. His presence is tracked through video cameras and intelligence from members of the public. His home is even raided. It is an intimation of what life may feel like under the Immigration Act 2014, which turns landlords into immigration officers and co-opts banks, building societies, doctors and others to detect the Paddingtons who dare to roam among us.

This article first appeared on freemovement.org.uk and is crossposted here with permission. Follow Colin Yeo on Twitter @ColinYeo1

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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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