In Focus Life Abroad – Part 52:JOKES APART!
Posted on November 7th, 2013

Dr.Tilak Fernando

The topic of immigration has always given adequate ammunition to politicians to woo public votes, of late, mainly in the UK and Canada. Illegal immigrants seeking entry to Australia has become world wide information. Consequently, the Australian government is spending a fortune on advertisements on Sri Lankan TV to discourage ‘boat people’. Many such illegal immigrants have perished in sea beds unaccounted for, so far.

People are tempted to seek ‘imaginative’ greener pastures by raising loans to pay immigration racketeers who promise them a better world; also perhaps toeing with the idea of educating their children in developed countries hoping it would open a whole new world for the new generation in the future.

British pensioners turned boat people

The topic of ‘immigration’ has emerged in the UK from 1900s with the Irish migration to Britain. Later, British passport holders from former colonies had direct access to the mainland. Some of the soldiers from British colonies, who fought the enemy with the British Army and managed to survive during the World War II , have got married to either English, Irish or German women and settled down in the UK.


At the beginning privileged students from Sri Lanka secured placements in UK Universities as bona-fide students. They completed their degrees at Oxford and Cambridge and returned back to Sri Lanka to take up politics.

When it came to international students, Britain warmly welcomed them with their educational, commercial, political and developmental skills, to help and expand their knowledge out of the British education. In return, students were expected to get back and work for the development of their home countries. The British Council, UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations, helped the cause by operating in six continents and over 100 countries.

Such policies made many international students enroll at British Universities paying ‘overseas fees’ and helping their budgets to maintain equilibrium while subsidising local undergraduates. Many overseas students paid their course fees privately, yet the British government and other organisations such as the University Grants Commission provided a number of scholarships and awards to help international students to study in the UK.

In 1964 responsibility for the UGC was transferred from HM Treasury to the newly constituted Department of Education and Science. The UGC was wound up on April 1, 1989 with its powers transferred to a new body, the Universities Funding Council, which became directly responsible to the Parliament.

Breakdown of monopoly

‘Iron policies’ of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, as the Prime Minister, suddenly raised the overseas students university fees to an unprecedented level which deprived many students from developing countries to enter British universities, but only helped a handful of students from oil-rich states thus depleting the numbers entering British universities and making a shattering effect on university funds.

Soon prominent hairline cracks in the university funding structure began to appear which some economists prophesied as ‘the downfall of the UK economy’ as many foreign students started to deviate from UK studies to other destinations such as Germany, Japan, Russia, India etc., as alternative grounds for higher education.

It was commonsense that when students were trained in a particular country they automatically became accustomed to the machinery, engineering and technical knowhow which they learnt from, during their training, and when they assumed responsibility as Company Directors, CEOs or entrepreneurs at home, they automatically preferred to place orders with countries where they were trained and familiar with their modes of training and operation.

Thus, the monopoly the Britain enjoyed in exporting began to dwindle seemingly which was described by economists as “the magnetic effect was greater when the rod was lengthwise”, which meant Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s short sighted policy on University fees had begun to have depressing consequences for business”.

Sri Lankan migration

Over the years the flow of immigrants to Britain seemingly increased with each government in power trying to curb the inflow of immigrants to the UK.

Following the insurrection in 1972 by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Sri Lankans arriving in the UK to settle down by various means helped to swell Lankan immigration figures in the midst of mass immigration from other former British colonies.

The JVP unrest in the country continued for a decade or so, and when the security forces were mobilised to put an end to the rebellion by Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, such actions deepened the pathway as an escape route for many to seek refuge in Britain.

This was followed by the Tamil youth rebellion in the North and spreading to the East later. This led to an unknown Tamil youth called Prabhakaran becoming a megalomaniac terrorist leader to fight a democratically elected government on the pretext of helping the Tamil people for 30 years! The unpleasant scenario in 1983, termed as ‘racial victimisation,’ added fuel to fire and facilitated a mass ‘exodus’ of Tamils from Sri Lanka to the UK and other countries as political refugees which has today given rise to what is known as the Tamil Diaspora!

Refugee problem

All these meant that the immigrant population in England was getting increased day by day, and files on ‘refugee’ applications were piling up by the thousand at the Home Office in London. In the midst some who arrived in England on ‘visitors’ visa decided to stay back using ‘legal loopholes’ in the British Immigration Law.

Such occurrences became an overbearing problem for the British authorities. With so many ambiguity in the immigration law and ‘refugees’ working illegally and moonlighting, despite receiving social welfare funds, it reached a stage where boundaries of the immigration laws were having a bursting effect at the seams, and ‘the temporary leave to remain in the UK’ for refuge seekers was seen as “dumping tortoises to water”!

Perks and welfare

In certain cases immigrants to the UK and benefits given to them immediately after their arrival in the country included brand new fully furnished and equipped apartments in Glasgow, Scotland. Such privileges to refugees were seen by those in local council housing lists for many years (in certain cases families placed in bed and breakfast hotels) as getting step-motherly treatment by their own government/local councils.

This naturally caused antagonism towards the entire immigration community in the UK and began to have detrimental impacts which lead to hatred, violence, discrimination and far-right political parties such as the British National Party (BNP) to emerge, become popular, even contest parliamentary elections and ultimately win seats purely campaigning against the UK immigration policy.

The immigration issue has become deep rooted day after day where immigrants have been subjected to racial attacks; in some stances ending up in cold blooded murders on the streets of London, Birmingham and other towns.

It is exceedingly clear that the average Englishman is getting fed up with the absorption of more immigrants to the UK than the country could afford. Of late, Eastern Europeans have started to swamp London towns, as legal migrants under the EU agreements. There is a certain amount of disquiet among the British public when these latest type of migrants grab many jobs, which the British people used to do, by undercutting existing labour charges. These new groups also get preferential treatment in housing, employment, as much as in unemployment and social benefits in the UK which is causing uneasiness!

Illustrating the British general feelings of the treatment and benefits what the refugees enjoy at present, a carefully worded email is doing the rounds at present, which hit my mail box this week. The message trying to convey to the public through a picture of ‘old white pensioners’ in a boat in mid sea depicting the ‘boat people to Australia’ is somewhat hilarious and written in lighter vein, but it portrays the feelings and predicament of the UK pensioners in a rather subtle form.

The email reads as follows: “The Royal Navy intercepted three boatloads of people off the coast of Kent today. This placed the Royal Navy in an awkward position, as the boats were not heading to, but away from Kent towards France”.

“Another surprise finding was that they were loaded with British people who were all seniors of pension age. Their claim was that they were trying to get to Calais so as to be able to return to the UK as illegal immigrants and therefore be entitled to far more benefits than they were receiving as legitimate UK pensioners.”

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This email picture and message may be a spam or intended to be a joke, but certainly carries an underlined serious message to the British Authorities.‚ 

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