Another year, another immigrant being allowed to stay in the UK for the flimsiest of reasons. Last year we had the person allowed to stay because he went to the gym and before that the famous Bolivian-student-allowed-to-stay-because-they-owned-a-cat. Of course, the important thing about both of those cases is that those were not the reasons at all. The media – bless them – had just taken what they thought to be the most absurd reason for remaining (even, if in the case of the cat, whether it wasn’t even used as an argument) from each case and reported it as if that was the sole reason for the judge’s verdict.
Which brings us to today’s Mail Online headline: ‘Judge gives Bangladeshi student permission to stay in the UK… because he loves cricket’. Which actually means:
In what is being seen by lawyers as a test case, a trainee accountant from Bangladesh who came to Britain to study has been granted permission to remain in the country after successfully claiming that he had made friends and played cricket on Sundays.
While the Home Office turned down Abdullah Munawar’s initial bid to stay on in the UK after graduating, the courts overturned the decision on appeal and ruled that he could continue to enjoy a “private life” in this country under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
You can argue all you like about the ‘right to a private life’ enshrined under Article 8 of the ECHR, but let’s have those arguments like adults, rather than just screaming that X has been allowed to stay for one reason alone when they clearly have not. The right to a private life does kind of imply that every student on a 3-year VISA will be able to argue their case to a judge to be allowed to remain – after all, you would hope that most people would have established a private life over the course of living in the UK for 3 years. What this perhaps does is highlight how the UK currently expects to be paid handsomely by foreign students whilst they attend its universities, only to then remove them as soon as their education is over without question.
Again, newspapers are free to have this debate but it would be refreshing if for once they could just report the truth accurately and avoid dishonest headlines. The Daily Mail was recently bemoaning the apathy of young non-voters, yet at the same time this is the level of political debate that the newspaper engages in. There is clear scope for a proper debate over the right to a private life and what this ruling means for future cases. However, all people will be taking away from this article is the false impression that playing cricket is a surefire way that ‘they’ can stay in the country – just as if ‘they’ owned a cat.
Speaking of which, at least the Mail Online article didn’t dare mention the cat, unlike the Telegraph:
The case of the cricketing student now takes its place in the annals of unusual immigration decisions – alongside the “Bolivian cat man”, first exposed in these pages two years ago, who sparked a Cabinet rift at the 2011 Conservative conference.
Indeed, the cricketing student myth will now be regularly quoted alongside ‘Bolivian cat man’ by people unaware that they’ve just been lied to by their newspaper, again. Considering the absolute falsity of the ‘Bolivian cat man’ story it staggers me that the Telegraph – the article was written by David Barrett – has again proudly stood by it.
The new press regulator needs the statutory power to fine or flog any journalist who repeats a myth that has been publicly and convincingly shown to be false. Otherwise we just end up with millions of individual Wintervals damaging public understanding of how the world works.