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Anxiety Grips as October 1st UK Immigration Deadline Expires

Oct 6, 2008, 5:54 AM | Article By: Alhagie Mbye, Our UK correspondent

Thousands of illegal immigrants living in the United Kingdom who were advised to sort out their immigration status by October 1st 2008 by either contacting the Home Office or solicitors for action regarding such matters that may lead to their removal or expulsion from the country but failed to do so are now wondering what to do next as the final date expires.

It is important to note that earlier such people were told by the Home Office to make the best effort to legalise their immigration status by taking advantage of the concessionary period before the 1st of October 2008.

However many do not adhere to such a deal simply because they did not understand how to go about the issue or believed they are not entitled to any such concessionary. Therefore they decided to melt in the society and simply hope for the best.

However breach of such rules could be serious for example overstaying your visa in the UK by more than 28 days is a violation as well as to enter the country illegally in any way or form. It is also a breach by using deception in an immigration application in any form including submitting false documents.

A recent BBC panorama had revealed certain people allegedly involved in forging documents including passports and work permits were exposed prompting some demanding stricter rules.

Even international students who breach their conditions of stay while in the UK by for example working in excess of the permitted 20 hours weekly may find them selves in hot water.

The government rationally believes that such limitation of work for students could help them concentrate more on their studies and with better future prospect, but most student said 20 hours was too small to depend on.

Interestingly some of these students are faced with severe pressure from family members back home that have high expectations from them and with less idea of how such students are living in the country.

Since this important date came into effect many illegal immigrants from the around the world including some Gambians are very afraid of the outcome and some of them don't either have the money to pay for legal fees or even know the procedures involved.

A young Gambian lady who spoke to this correspondent during the weekend said that she wanted to sort out her immigration status but could not afford to pay for a solicitor to take up her case.  She said: 'The first solicitor I called was demanding £800 while another one asked for £500... I was able to raise the sum but could not accompany it with any relevant documents required. So I finally backed down.'

However the rules are general and are not only African immigrants are affected. Azad a young Afghan man living in London for the past five years and now operating a mobile phone stall confessed that he has no idea how to follow the process required.

He said: 'I have settled down in the UK and I like it here. It is a great country. Since then the immigration gave me a small paper that am still using. But now do you expect me to go back to Afghanistan? No way! I am scared.'

Even though these new changes are found in the Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules HC 321, many don't have a clue about it. However it will severely punish people who have breached any of the UK immigration rules by imposing a mandatory period of exclusion from the UK ranging from 1 - 10 years.

However, illegal migrants who had voluntarily left the UK before October 1st 2008 will be able to apply to return to the UK and will not face a mandatory exclusion period. Again such individual must be able to provide that they are able to demonstrate compliance with the relevant rule under which they are applying. Such concession will not apply to those migrants who left the UK before 17 March 2008.

The new rules are attracting interesting debates in all corners of the political spectrum even though the main political parties including the incumbent Labour and the opposition Conservatives parties during their recent annual conference said little about them. However the media is not silent as far as the issue is concerned.

The Home Office's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its first list of the kinds of job that it believes can be filled by migrant workers of any nationality., and revealed that currently about 130,000 of the one million jobs needed are filled by migrants, of whom some 70,000 are from outside Europe.

But opposition official Dominic Grieve, the shadow Home Secretary, said a points-based system was 'pointless unless accompanied by an annual limit on immigrant numbers'.

However Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: «Restricting entry only to so-called highly-skilled migrant workers is likely to leave care homes facing closure, fruit and vegetables left unpicked in the field, the hospitality and catering industries seriously short-handed, and construction projects slowed down or halted altogether.»

While some are demanding toughest rule others are demanding amnesty for illegal immigrants. Many including human rights groups believe that as a point of principle, the immigration rules must be upheld but at the same time those who have lived in the country for five years should be granted legal papers to stay.

The government has maintained that it believes in a fair and non discriminatory system for all immigrants coming into the country taking into consideration the needs of the nation hence the new rules. Anyone who requires advice or assistance regarding any of the issue is free to contact the Home Office.

Meanwhile hundreds of the Nepalese fighters and their families cheered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand after a High Court judge ruled the Government's immigration policy excluding them was 'unlawful'. The ex-fighters are not fighting any war now but battling to stay and retire in the country. It seems now they are successful and presently Azad and the young Gambian lady are among those waiting and hoping for the best.