It is with great sadness that I read a story in the Malay Mail - Shocked and humiliated."
I wrote this a long time ago but the story of the traumatic experience of a Malaysian family at Heathrow sounds sadly familiar. What I have reproduced and adapted below is not a judgement of the family but rather what I have seen and heard and witnessed myself.
"WE have heard numerous stories about how and why people are turned away at the airport. Most certainly deserved it but many were quite unnecessary.
Many spent a lot of money on air tickets and months of planning only to be deported because of some inappropriate or wrong answers that they gave at the immigration desks.
Well, if you enter the country as a tourist but at the same time reveal some intention of searching for work or cannot make your mind up about the length of stay or what you want to do in Britain, then there is every reason for the immigration to be suspicious.
There have certainly been cases where a mother and daughter argued for all to hear about their reasons for visiting as well as about their duration of stay. The mother said she wanted to stay for a month, while the daughter said, she'd rather stay for three months.
The immigration officer was only too happy to settle it for them by giving them only one day before taking the next flight home.
Then there's the simple case of not knowing who you're visiting. A young boy was all excited when invited by his aunt to visit her in London. He was asked his aunt's name but could only offer Mak Ngah and could not even recall her full name. On top of that he didn't even know her full address. It was not what the immigration wanted to hear but it certainly gave them enough grounds to send him packing.
It is all very well for us here to invite relatives to come for a holiday. But I have learnt that it is also our duty and responsibilities to supply our visitor with as much information about ourselves as possible in case our intended guests are stopped and subjected to questions. Be definite about how long you want to stay and what you want to do. Give strong reasons why you want to go back and not stay to find work. If you have work waiting for you, say so. If need be...an employer's letter, your bank statements , whatever! Show them that you are not here to be a burden on their welfare system.
It is sad and frustrating when your reasons and intentions are genuine. My own mother was subjected to such a treatment that I never wanted her to visit me again.
It all began when my nephew wanted to visit. He had enough money, place to stay and even us in attendance when he applied for a visa. BUT the officer concerned saw that I was pregnant, and made up her mind that my nephew was coming with us to help us babysit. Thus a lengthy interview about his intentions for visiting. Even when he showed the amount of money he had, the officer concerned was not satisfied and wanted to see his account book to see that he had actually withdrawn the money from there. And as if that was not sufficient, a letter from his employer. As his employer was in Penang, he said, could he return the next day with the letter? The answer was yes, but swift as a lighting, she put a chop cancelling the visa. Now that would look good, wouldn't it...a cancelled visa!
The next day, with employer's letter AND bank book, he saw another officer - but because of the cancelled visa - he was again subjected to another lengthy interrogation. Finally he was given exactly a month.
Then when my own mother wanted to visit, I truly believe they had my record on their file. They made her sign a letter saying she would not extend her stay no matter what. This we did not know until we found a letter with her signature. Now, my mother could not read nor write and so how on earth was she to understand what she had signed?
There was also a case of a young girl who was asked by the sister to come here to babysit. She was briefed, of course and she was just to say that she was visiting a friend, and NO, she did not have any relatives. Th eofficer asked for her address book. And because her surname matched one in the address book, she too headed for home.
Many, many more - especially those who mentioned visiting relatives who have restaurants and businesses here. These officers can't be blamed for being overzealous in carrying out their duties. I am sure that when you mention a name of a restaurant, a business and the location, that usually rings alarm bells for them.
There's plenty - one funny on about a film crew who came with obvious intentions to do filming but did not ask prior permission. When questioned at the airport, they said the huge big cameras were for recording their children on holiday!
A sad case I heard recently was that of a boy on whose person some letters were found. One letter was written by his sister, who invited him over to work. The other was from his mother - the contents broke my heart as I translated it for the officer. A mother's hope that the son could find employment to help her and her invalid husband in the kampong. Common sense could have told him to leave the letter behind. But better still, given his age, he need not have gone through all that pretense of coming for a holiday when all he wanted to do was work.
As a young man of only 23, and coming from Malaysia, he could easily come in as a tourist, then enrol as a student and with that, he is allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours. It's all legal.
And that saves the trouble of having to play the cat-and-mouse game that most illegals play with the authorities.
Then, there is of course the Working Holidaymakers Scheme. Now, why this is not widely known is quite puzzling. Under this scheme, if you're aged between 17 and 27 and you're from a Commonwealth country, you're allowed to come to Britain to holiday as well as work.
However, this will need to be applied from home and once given, you can stay for two years. Of course, participants of this scheme have no right to bring in their spouse nor switch into work permit employment at the end of the two years. They will also need to have their return ticket.
However, recognising what migrant workers have to offer, the Government had also raised the age limit to 30 and the term of stay extended and area of employment be expanded.
Under the Holidaymakers scheme, nearly 40,000 young people from the Commonwealth come to Britain for a holiday of up to two years. They can work in restaurants, hotels and generally in low-skilled employment and at the same time experience life in Britain.
In 1990, according to reports released by the British Home Office , only 30 Malaysians participated and in 2000, the number rose to only 120. Yet, many would rather try their luck illegally.
The British Government realise that by having this organised and properly-managed legal migration, they are not only solving recruitment problems but also tackling the issue of illegal immigrants.
Day after day, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants risk their lives to come into Britain to find work. Once they succeed in gaining entry, they find work. But what kind of life does one lead when at the very whiff of an official figure, one jumps out of the nearest window? It is so unnecessary, especially when these two schemes make it possible for one to work and at the same time enjoy one's holidays. But perhaps, for some, there is no excitement in this!
Finally, I'll leave you with this joke thatleft a funny taste in one visitor's mouth When asked by the Sikh immigration officer at Heathrow how long he was staying, this joker said: Not as long as you!
Because he had the necessary papers BUT because the officer has the power to interrogate him, he was questioned for three hours before allowed out.
So, please, be prepared, be sure and precise about what you are here for. And bring the right papers. If you are not sure, contact the BritishHigh Commission. Ask. Its not easy anymore.