UK Immigration policy: The Handwriting on the Wall…By Olusegun Adeniyi
Before the end of this year, first-time visitors from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Pakistan and India may be expected to secure a £3,000 cash bond before they can enter the United Kingdom. According to the Times of London which broke the story, such visitors will forfeit the money if they stay beyond the expiration of their visa. “This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain,” Home Secretary Theresa May was quoted as saying.
Our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, on Tuesday summoned the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Pocock, to express displeasure over the proposed policy, which he described not only as discriminatory but also capable of undermining the spirit of the Commonwealth family. While I commend Ambassador Ashiru for the highly professional manner he has managed our foreign relations, what should not be lost on our people is that several countries are already tightening their immigration laws against countries whose citizens migrate for economic reasons, and Nigeria seems to be top on that list.
In any case, what I find most surprising is the outrage over the proposed UK Visa policy which many embassies in our country have since adopted. Even a small nation like Trinidad and Tobago requires such payment of a N560,000 “cash bond” before Nigerians are granted visa at their embassy. Yet, however we may feel about such discriminatory practices, we will only be begging the real issue if we don’t pay attention to the growing challenges that make many countries to disrespect our people. As my Pastor would say, it is how you dress that you will be addressed, and these people can clearly see our nakedness.
According to the latest report of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Nigeria accounts for almost half the total number of out-of-school children in the world. Despite this, projections from the United Nations indicate that Nigeria’s population could rise to 440 million by 2050. Such uncontrolled population growth of largely illiterate (and ultimately idle) people poses serious threat to our national survival. While it does not appear as if our leaders seem worried about this challenge, the leaders of other countries are; and that is why they are cleverly closing the door against our nationals in several embassies.
Whether they want to admit it or not, the 1974 controversial book, “Life Boat Ethics: The Case Against Helping The Poor”, by Garrett Hardin has now become a ready handbook for policy makers in most immigration departments of Western countries. To appreciate the message, I want to excerpt some parts of the rather interesting theory which I had used in the past. In Hardin’s words:
“If we divide the world crudely into rich nations and poor nations, two thirds of them are desperately poor, and only one third comparatively rich, with the United States the wealthiest of all. Metaphorically, each rich nation can be seen as a lifeboat full of comparatively rich people. In the ocean outside each lifeboat swim the poor of the world, who would like to get in, or at least to share some of the wealth. What should the lifeboat passengers do?
“First, we must recognise the limited capacity of any lifeboat. For example, a nation’s land has a limited capacity to support a population and as the current energy crisis has shown us, in some ways we have already exceeded the carrying capacity of our land. So here we sit, say 50 people in our lifeboat. To be generous, let us assume it has room for 10 more, making a total capacity of 60. Suppose the 50 of us in the lifeboat see 100 others swimming in the water outside, begging for admission to our boat or for handouts.
“We have several options: we may be tempted to try to live by the Christian ideal of being ‘our brother’s keeper,’ or by the Marxist ideal of ‘to each according to his needs.’ Since the needs of all in the water are the same, and since they can all be seen as ‘our brothers,’ we could take them all into our boat, making a total of 150 in a boat designed for 60. The boat swamps, everyone drowns. Complete justice, complete catastrophe.
“Since the boat has an unused excess capacity of 10 more passengers, we could admit just 10 more to it. But which 10 do we let in? How do we choose? Do we pick the best 10, ‘first come, first served’? And what do we say to the 90 we exclude? If we do let an extra 10 into our lifeboat, we will have lost our ‘safety factor,’ an engineering principle of critical importance. Suppose we decide to preserve our small safety factor and admit no more to the lifeboat. Our survival is then possible although we shall have to be constantly on guard against boarding parties. While this last solution clearly offers the only means of our survival, it is morally abhorrent to many people. Some say they feel guilty about their good luck. My reply is simple: ‘Get out and yield your place to others.’ This may solve the problem of the guilt-ridden person’s conscience, but it does not change the ethics of the lifeboat. The needy person to whom the guilt-ridden person yields his place will not himself feel guilty about his good luck. If he did, he would not climb aboard.
“The harsh ethics of the lifeboat become harsher when we consider the reproductive differences between rich and poor. A wise and competent government saves out of the production of the good years in anticipation of bad years to come. Joseph taught this policy to Pharaoh in Egypt more than 2,000 years ago. Yet the great majority of the governments in the world today do not follow such a policy. They lack either the wisdom or the competence, or both. On the average poor countries undergo a 2.5 percent increase in population each year; rich countries, about 0.8 percent. Because of the higher rate of population growth in the poor countries of the world, 88 percent of today’s children are born poor, and only 12 percent rich. Year by year the ratio becomes worse, as the fast-reproducing poor outnumber the slow-reproducing rich…”
What the foregoing suggests is that it is no longer easy for our nationals to run abroad in search of the proverbial greener pastures that are not there anymore, even for the citizens of the host nations. The only solution is for us to put our house in order and begin to reposition our country for the prosperity that is possible. Given that most Western countries are already grappling with the problem of aging populations, Nigeria’s young population could indeed be an advantage. But the UNESCO report, which is actually self-evident, shows clearly that we are breeding an unproductive population that promises nothing but disaster for everyone. Boko Haram has already given us a clear sign of this malaise with the number of young people being daily recruited into its violent army.
The proposed UK visa cash bond is therefore yet another in a series of wake-up calls to Nigeria, especially at a time our leaders, at practically all levels, seem too preoccupied with petty politics at the expense of serious governance. Even the anaemic governance that takes place is mostly conducted without baseline data which then explains why the targets our politicians set in their manifestos have nothing to do with any informed estimates of our population or its growth rate. Somehow, our leaders seem to believe that Nigeria will become great one day because we ‘pray so’ while the leaders of other serious nations do the necessary hard work required to sustain their gains and advance their national interests.
Gov Babatunde Fashola @ 50
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, will be 50 tomorrow, and judging by his recent interview, he expects a quiet family affair. I doubt if he will get his wish. But whatever tomorrow holds, literally and metaphorically, Fashola stands secure in the assurance that he is leaving in Lagos a lasting legacy of methodical approach to problem solving, a leadership style that we hardly see in our climes today.
In an encounter with Fashola sometime last year, the governor expressed his fascination with the “Broken Windows Theory”, based on the thesis of James Wilson and George Kelling which originally centred on crime prevention but is adaptable to different fields; so it is easy to understand the philosophical underpinning of his administration. According to the authors of this theory, “at the community level, disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken.”
Despite lean resources, and the unpleasant reality that the city-state daily receive hundreds of new residents, Fashola has quietly been mending the cracks caused by years of neglect; and he has been doing a good job of it. Of course, there are still many challenges confronting Lagos but not only do critics forget where the state was some 14 years ago but also the fact that, even with all its creative tax collection mechanisms, Lagos is still being run on an average of about $ 2 billion annually. But Fashola has been able to make a difference because he set about the implementation of his plans with the understanding that law and order was the underlying cause of difficult living in Lagos State. And he decided to build a society based on clear rules and clear sanctions.
For his administration to function efficiently and effectively, Fashola also decided from the outset to re-order the budget of the state from consumption to investment in infrastructure while changing the expenditure profile to a 60:40 ratio in favour of capital over re-current expenditure. For any serious government, this is the way to go but I am yet to see any state that comes near Lagos in that direction while the Federal Government has consistently failed on this score. Right from 2007, Fashola has made himself accessible to the public by publishing his email address and telephone numbers so he could respond to complaints and suggestions, and as many would attest, he has kept faith with the people. Therefore, both in substance and style, Fashola has shown in Lagos what genuine leadership is all about.
As already stated, Lagos remains a work-in-progress, and there is still a long way to go; but in Fashola the people of the state can boast of a governor who understands their problems and is doing everything within his power to solve them. As the governor therefore marks his 50th birthday tomorrow, I wish him all the best that such a day can bring.
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