Category Archives: immigration

Comic Daphna Baram, the alien police, the Fringe & a Royal in a Croydon disco

An Irishman, a scotsman and a Jew...

An Irishman, a Scotsman and an Israeli…

In yesterday’s blog, Cassandra Hodges mentioned applying for a visa to work in the US.

But, of course, several people working on the UK comedy circuit are not British.

Daphna Baram – an Israeli – has been here for several years and has two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe in August – Bombs, Booze and Haggis Strikes Back and Something to Declare.

This is the second consecutive year for Bombs, Booze and Haggis – “We are flyering it as a Scotsman, an Irishman and a Jew,” she told me.

“But not in that order,” I suggested.

“No,” agreed Daphna.

“I have hay fever,” I warned her when we started talking.

“I have a sore back,” she countered.

“From what?” I asked.

“I was just carrying a heavy bag. I’m generally broken.”

Daphna had a heart attack several years ago.

Daphna Baram has got Something To Declare

Daphna Baram has got Something To Declare

“I think,” she told me, “for the first few years after a heart attack, you are very healthy because you had the scare, you quit smoking, you go to cardio rehab. You want to get back to your glory. A year after the heart attack, I was super-fit: I could run for 45 minutes, I was quite thin, I was on top of things. But then comedy happened. It’s more of a struggle keeping fit when you spend every night in pubs.”

“Have you,” I asked, “explored the option of not spending every night in pubs?”

“I am a comedian?” answered Daphna. “What am I supposed to do?”

“So what’s your solo show about?” I asked, sneezing.

“This is my fifth Fringe year and third solo show. Something To Declare is a show about me immigrating to this country – stories about my efforts to integrate into British society. Partly successfully… No. I think wholly successfully… I think it will be interesting to do it in Scotland. It is a bit of a different premise in Scotland.”

“You now,” I said, blowing my nose, “have an indefinite leave to remain in Britain.”

“Yes,” said Daphna, “finally.”

Matt Roper,” I said, “just got a visa for America which says he is an alien with extraordinary abilities.”

“I tried to get that here a few years ago,” Daphna told me. They called it a Highly Skilled Migrant at the time. I had been under a year in the country and I had published a book in English, I was writing for national newspapers, I had a Fellowship at Oxford University…They said: Listen, madam, you are not a Highly Skilled Migrant. So I had to register myself with the alien police for a few years.”

“The alien police?” I asked. “What? Slanted-Eyed Greys?”

A grey alien, as depicted by Wikipedia

A ‘grey’ alien in Wikipedia

“No. I was the alien. They were the police. Then they changed the name to something else.”

“Probably couldn’t take the laughter,” I suggested.

Daphna’s show Something To Declare is partly about The Britishness Test which aliens have to take.

I sneezed, then asked: “That’s the one with questions no British person can answer? Like What year did Richard II ascend the throne?

“They’ve got a particular obsession with Henry VIII,” Daphna told me, “which I ascribe to the fact the Home Office is in Croydon and he was a bit of a lad.”

“Eh?” I asked, startled. “What has Croydon got to do with it? Did he go down the disco there?”

“Yeah,” said Daphna. “He was a player. I can see him do that.”

“I think,” I said, “you have failed the Britishness test here.”

“I passed!” she insisted.

Daphna is one of the orphans of Cowgatehead. After the chaos caused by the Free Fringe take-over of the venue, she is now performing at Just the Tonic at the Caves. The Cowgatehead fiasco lost her £600. She is currently crowdfunding.

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Filed under Comedy, immigration, UK

A VIP’s surprise visit to see a burnt-out UK immigrant removal centre

I first met mad inventor John Ward around 25 years ago. Despite being admittedly eccentric, he has held down a stream of very sensible jobs. He used to work for the Barclaycard credit card company and, at one time, held a gun licence for several weapons.

I was never nervous about him working at Barclaycard.

Yesterday, he told me about something which happened almost ten years ago, when he was working at the occasionally controversial Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre for American-owned Aramark Facilities Management who had a contract with the Group 4 security company which had a six-year contract from the UK government to run the detention centre.

No government contracts are ever simple.

On February 14th 2002, Yarl’s Wood was almost entirely burned down during a riot by disgruntled detained would-like-to-have-been immigrants. It did not re-open until September 2003.

John tells me that, “one particular morning, a little while after the place had settled down to sort out the mess caused by the fire, there were phones ringing everywhere, telling people about the imminent arrival of a VIP from the Government who would be on a whistle-stop tour of the site and would we all  ‘please see that everything is cleaned up spick-and-span’ for the VIP who could not be named, even to us, for security reasons.

“All the cleaning staff set-to with a vengeance and not a speck of dust could be seen after the Cleaning Manager went round everywhere with a pair of white cotton gloves on to test for any small grains of dirt which might have escaped the sudden high profile purge.

“Even though the Centre was ‘stood down’ and not operating normally due to the fire damage, cleaners still cleaned everything spotless each and every single day regardless, as the contract to do so was given by Group 4 and was still ‘active’. You literally could have eaten your dinner off the floor it was kept so clean. But it was cleaned up even cleaner than clean for this soon-to-arrive government VIP. They did not want him to see dirt anywhere.

“A short while before the VIP was due to arrive, word got round as to who it was. The reaction on the faces of the staff was something to behold.

“The visit, when it happened, took all of 12 minutes. The ministerial Jaguar sped into the Reception Area and the VIP got out with his entourage and wafted into the building and, almost as soon as the Minister arrived, he departed.”

John Ward tells me they had no feedback on what David Blunkett, the blind Home Secretary, thought of the super-clean state of the Centre and, he adds, “the comments of his guide dog were not recorded either, but I heard some of the comments of the staff who had been desperately re-cleaning everything for the visit. They were not impressed by irony.“

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Filed under Crime, immigration, Politics, PR

Lies, damned lies and Census statistics: there are too many foreign immigrants here in Britain…

I wrote a blog a couple of months ago about how Britain is full of immigrants.

Well, last night, I filled in my Census form.

I didn’t mind doing it, but a friend of mine was more incensed than Censused because her father was in the British Armed Forces and they lived in a variety of other countries around the world as well as the UK, employed by Her Majesty’s Government.

My friend was born in Malta. Her brother was born in West Germany.

The Census form, which partly aims to get figures for immigration and to see how many non-Britons are living in the UK, has buggered it up good and proper and the figures on which the government bases its future social policies will be wrong.

The form asks Were you born abroad? There’s no category for British citizens born abroad, let alone the children of British Forces born abroad while their fathers and/or mothers were  sometimes risking their lives for Britain. So an Italian born in Rome will appear in the statistics on an equal footing with a British passport holder born abroad – both will count as foreigners who entered this country to stay here.

The form also asks, in effect, when you first moved to the UK full-time. My friend’s father’s last posting abroad was in West Germany, so the answer to this question might be 1973. Or it might be 1958, a couple of years after she was born and first came ‘home’ from Malta; but that was not permanent residence.

As far as the Census figures will show, she (born in Malta) and her brother (born in Germany) will be two non-British people who became foreign immigrants into the UK.

In fact, by anyone’s standards, they were two British people – technically “Forces’ dependents” – returning to Britain.

And don’t get my friend talking about other ways in which the children of Forces’ personnel are disadvantaged – “I feel like a stranger in my own land,” she says. “Always have done. Probably always will.”

She once applied for a clerical job with a defence industry company in the UK but was turned down – after at first being accepted – because the company said it could only employ people born in the UK.

She presumably counted as a security risk because she was not “British”, despite the fact her British father served in the British Armed Forces and she was born in a British military base.

So these bloody foreigners have been coming over here, stealing our jobs and getting free healthcare for years, haven’t they? Not just children of the British Armed Forces but all those bloody Indian immigrants  – like Cliff Richard (born in Lucknow) and Joanna Lumley (Srinagar).

It’s been going on for years. The place has been inundated by Indian immigrants – There’s that one who starred in Gone With The Wind – Vivien Leigh (born in Darjeeling, lived in Calcutta), comedian Spike Milligan (born in Ahmednagar and he became so pissed-off with not being considered “British” by Whitehall bureaucrats because of his birthplace that he eventually took Irish citizenship)… and then there’s that bloody foreigner LibDem MP Paddy Ashdown (born New Delhi).

They should all have been sent packing back to where they came from. Back to… err… erm…

And let’s not even mention that dodgy cross-dressing comedian bloke from terrorist-friendly Yemen – Eddie Izzard (born in Aden)

Or William Makepeace Thackeray (Calcutta).

So who is British?

Now there’s a question.

One that the Census won’t adequately answer.

In fact, one that the Census figures will mis-represent.

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Filed under History, immigration, Politics, Travel