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New UK Immigration Rules Scare Gambian, Other Immigrants

Jul 24, 2008, 4:29 AM | Article By: By Alhagie Mbye, London, England

Certain illegal immigrants and undocumented foreigners currently living outside the ambit of the law in Britain, including some Gambians, are currently trying to digest the new proposed rules and regulation by the British government regarding the possibility to earn certain status in the country such as becoming British citizens.

The debate has been raging from all angles and has taken the form of highly charged public debates sometimes, not only on both television and radio but also in national newspapers and tabloids.  However concerned individuals are advised to contact qualified legal practitioners for further information and not to rely on second hand accounts regarding the issue.

Those Gambians scared of deportation have personally contacted this correspondent to investigate their current dilemma in order to know exactly what progress they are required to do to help them secure the necessary status. This, they believe, will save them from being embroiled or entrapped in any kind of dispute with the law of their host country.

As a matter of urgency, this correspondent contacted the Gambian High Commissioner in London to shed light on the plight of his countrymen who are desperate to hear from their own representative. Unfortunately the Gambian High Commission is either still reluctant or refused to comment on the matter. Neither the phone calls nor emails to the High Commission have been responded to or even acknowledged. Latest correspondence to the High Commissioner read:

"Your Excellency, we tried to contact you over the phone twice but unfortunately could not succeed. However your Personal Secretary advised to email you regarding our enquiries. We want to confirm whether or not your office received any information relating to Gambian illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom threatened with deportation from the country following the new immigration rules that is expected to take effect soon. If so what is your message to those Gambians affected? Also what sort of help can your office offer to help regularise the status of these illegal immigrants?  Thanks for your expected cooperation and quick response.'

There was another follow-up to my queries but to no avail.

Nonetheless some of the government proposals seen by this correspondent regarding citizenship include a probation period of at least 12 months if the foreigner takes part in community activities such as volunteering, charity fund-raising, running a sports team or playgroup, or working as a school governor.  According to an official Green Paper this type of community work may even be made compulsory.

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, recently outlined that she wanted to end the situation where foreign nationals "languish in limbo" by living here but not adapting to the "British way of life." The remark sparked debate amongst the British public. "I would want to see a larger proportion of those that are here moving to full British citizenship," said Ms Smith.

Such an eventuality apparently worry many Gambians living in Britain, most of whom are law-abiding and very hard working. A well-known Gambian solicitor who spoke to this correspondent challenged the Gambian High Commissioner to give some advice to Gambians regarding the situation. The solicitor suggested that "the High Commissioner could use his diplomatic protocols and credentials and liaise with the Home Office to see how best he could obtain clear information regarding the issue and advice his people on such matter rather than just keeping quiet."

 One of the most radical changes is that full access to sate benefits such as jobseeker's allowance and income support assisting people to have access to financial help while actively searching for a job will no longer be granted after a person has been in the UK for five years, while illegal immigrants shown the exit door and remove from the country.