I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


So this is what she said. Our wonderful Prime Minister. The nice vicar's daughter who once upon a time told us all it was time to detoxify her 'Nasty Party'.

This is what she said back in 2012 in the days when she was infusing the Home Office with a tireless vindictive nastiness which is still going strong.

"The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants."

For once she ventured beyond one of her usual inane sound bites. This quote at least has the virtue of being pretty black and white. It echoes the tone of a farmer at his wits end with all the rats in his grain store. It isn't so very far from the mood music Dr Goebbels played to get his brown shirts out onto the streets to smash in Jewish faces on Kristallnacht.

Back in the day.

I best watch my step here. I am in danger of sounding like a fully paid up member of the 'metropolitan liberal elite'. Like a traitorous re-moaner. An enemy within. For the good people of Hartlepool and Stoke and Clacton have spoken which means I really should crawl into a dark corner and die.

Well it seems the Home Office's hostile environment is working out pretty well. Skilled immigrants are leaving in their droves whilst the guys on the immigration desks at the airports are probably getting kind of bored.

The 'Hostile Environment' has been rolled out on two fronts. It is a magnificent fusion of a Government and its people. Leaders and the led acting as one. The government's part is all down to vicious little laws passed by vicious little MP's and enforced by vicious little bureaucrats.

In order too throw a blanket of nastiness over a whole country, Governments always rely heavily on armies of these vicious little bureaucrats. These are the men and women who will do literally anything for their gilded pensions. They were the ones who made sure the trains to Auschwitz Birkenau always ran on time. They were then ones diligently filed the paperwork generated by 6 million East Germans spying on the other 14 million East Germans. They were the ones who picked out the names of the men and women who Saddam Hussein packed off to Abu Graib. They were the ones who diligently applied the rules of Apartheid.

In Theresa May's hostile environment, landlords are supposed to check the paperwork of prospective tenants with strange accents before allowing them to pay for a roof over their heads. Doctors are supposed to check immigration status before treating foreign types.

Immigrants with the wrong paperwork are not allowed access to any public funds. As in benefits. Which I think most people would agree is fair enough. I am sure the immigrants themselves would agree it is fair enough. But here's the kicker. They are not allowed to work whilst they wait for the Home Office to process their application for 'leave to remain'. Instead they are required to live on fresh air. And if they are caught undertaking so much as ten minutes worth of paid work, their applications will be torn up and binned.

All of this means there are different kinds of immigrants, and to be fair to our wonderful Government, this is not at all down to colour. If you are a bent Nigerian State Governor who has managed to fill up an account in the British Virgin Isles with millions of lovely corrupt dollars, then the red carpet will be laid out for you as you skip down the steps of your Gulfstream.

These are the right kinds of Nigerians who keep up the prices of Hampstead property and an Eton education and the very finest whores London can provide. And of course these guys don't look to the British tax payer for any funds. Oh no. No benefits for these splendid chaps. It would be kind of nice of they were just a little more willing to pay a few taxes once they settle here, but that would be asking a lot. Well it would, wouldn't it? And let's not forget, there is 20% of VAT included in the price of a spanking new Bentley and many of the top providers of the very best London hookers pay their taxes with the best of them.

The absolute wrong kind of Nigerian are the human cockroaches who come here to work as nurses or teachers of carers. Bloody swine. And the fact they are more than happy to pay their taxes just like the rest of us is no kind of excuse. And the fact we are chronically short of nurses and teachers and carers is no excuse either. These are bad, bad people who deserve to eke out their lives in the cold reality of Theresa May's 'Hostile Environment'.

Just to make sure there is no irksome public sympathy for this glorious element of Whitehall rule, the press are encouraged to fill their front pages with tales of rapacious immigrants taking all our houses and filling all our schools and congesting our roads and raping our women and picking our pockets and terrorising our pensioners. And speaking foreign on our buses.

And here is where more and more of the great British public are increasingly playing their part in delivering the 'Hostile Environment. In Hartlepool and Stoke and Clacton speaking foreign on a bus can earn you a sharp rebuke. "Haven't you heard of Brexit you Paki bastard. Time you fucked of back home...."

Ahhh ... the endless wit of the people of Shakespeare and Noel Coward......

And in the midst of all this growing hate there are real people. Real families who came here to settle and live and work and fit in and contribute.

A year ago I wrote a blog about one such family. I awarded the family some false names - Florence, Abigail and Thomas. I did my best to describe their life in Theresa May's 'Hostile Environment'. At the time they were facing imminent homelessness. Not allowed any state benefits. Not allowed to work. No family back in Nigeria. And it was December. And it seemed like Thomas might be taken into care whilst his mum and big sister would have to try and find a doorway to sleep in.

I explained how First Base was doing all we could to stop this from happening. A sadly familiar story. In the blue corner, a two bit charity from Dumfries with a leaky roof. In the red corner, her Majesty's Government in Whitehall. We were managing to feed the family and to keep the lights on, but the rent..... the rent looked like being a bridge too far. The rent was a serious problem. The rent was an absolute nightmare.

So I wrote a blog and asked you guys for some help. You can read it here if you like.

It didn't exactly go viral. Eleven hundred people read it. But enough of those eleven hundred readers followed the link to a JustGiving page to generate a whole year's worth of rent. Over £3000.

Wow. My faith in human nature was yet again restored. The wolf was driven back from the door thanks to the fabulous generosity of the public. 

Well a year has gone by and not much has changed. If you are unlucky enough to be applying for 'leave to remain' in the UK, you best have some cash behind you. For Florence, Abigail and Thomas, the bill to make an application was £4000. Which of course might as well have been £4 million. So they had to fill in a form to prove to the Home Office they lacked a penny to their names and were therefore eligible for their fee to be waived. Various local charities contributed written evidence to confirm this. I wrote to explain how First Base had been providing food, power and rent money.

Four months went by and finally the Home Office responded.

Nope. You aren't destitute! It is quite clear from your application you have family who are ready and able to support you. It says so clearly in their letter. Your family is paying for your food and power and rent. Well they can jolly well stump up four grand for your application. 

How could the Home Office manage to mistake a small charity in Dumfries Scotland for a living, breathing Nigerian family? So much for those much vaunted Civil Service entrance exams. It was almost as if they were deliberately making a mistake. It was almost as if they were deliberately trying to make the environment as hostile as they possibly could.....

Perish the thought.

So Florence appealed the decision. And I wrote another letter. And once again she is waiting for a decision from the Home Office. And yet another four months has drifted by. And all the money we collected has run out. And somehow every month, by hook or by crook, we manage to cobble up the wherewithal to cover the rent.

Assuming the Home Office acknowledges the plainly obvious fact that Florence hasn't a penny to her name, then she will be able to send in an application for 'leave to remain'. And then what? Many more months of waiting. There is no argument about what the answer will eventually be, by the way. Thomas has lived in the UK for nine of his eleven years, which means he has an automatic right to stay here. And for so long as we stay signed up to the European Charter for Human Rights, he has a right to have a mother in his life, which means Florence will also be allowed to stay. Would any Scottish Judge deport Abigail? Very unlikely.

When the family is eventually granted their 'leave to remain', it will only be for two and a half years. They will still not be allowed any public funds whatsoever, but they will finally be allowed to work. And after two and a half years, they will need to apply again to have the 'leave to remain' extended.

And this time they will be required to pay £4500 for their extension.

When they work, they will pay their taxes but they will still not be eligible for any benefits whatsoever. They will each pay £500 for access to the NHS.

After five years, same again. Another renewal form. Another £4500. At least. The Home Office ramps up its fees every years.

After seven and a half years, same again. Another form. Another £4500.

And after ten years, same again. Another form. Another £4500. But this time the leave to remain will be forever. And having worked and paid taxes for a decade, the family will finally be allowed access to public funds. They will finally be citizens.

By the way, I should point out that Florence has already worked and paid taxes here for many years when she had a work permit. She was a carer.

A few months ago, I received a call from Louise who told me she was making a documentary for the BBC. 'Breadline Kids'. A snapshot of child poverty in Scotland. Would any of our clients be willing to play a part in the programme? She was hoping I would put her in touch with one of the families living off our food parcels. Instead I told her all about Florence and Abigail and Thomas. I told her about the utter and absolute poverty they were enduring as a result of Theresa May's 'Hostile Environment'. And I told her about the staggering grace and dignity of these wonderful people.

And of course I told her their real names - Christiana and Dami and John.

And I told her I reckoned John would be a complete star.

Well, Louise came to Dumfries and she met the family and tomorrow night they will be appearing on BBC 1 at nine o' clock. If you follow this link, you can check out the programme trailer.

Will seeing the family on the TV nudge the Home Office to a small degree of human decency? It would be nice if it did. In the mean time, they are still hanging in there and waiting on the post. And every month First Base somehow manages to find another £420 to cover the rent. And by hook or by crook we will continue to do so. Because if we fail and this splendid family is torn apart and Christiana and Dami are cast out onto the streets, well, I don't think any of us at First Base could live with that kind of failure.

So here it is. Of course it is. The final link for you to follow. Our JustGiving page is still very much alive and any help any of you can give us to make sure a roof stays over the family's head would be an absolute godsend.