"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Thursday, 23 April 2009

A Relevant Inquiry into Botched Terror Raids

It has been reported that all of the twelve men arrested in Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire nearly two weeks ago on suspicion of planning a terrorist atrocity have been released without charge.

Eleven Pakistani nationals are now in the custody of the UK Border Agency, and a British national has been allowed to walk free.

The government will seek to deport the eleven foreign men, but this already faces fierce opposition, with the Muslim Council of Britain claiming the men have been dealt with in a way which is 'dishonourable', and Muslim lawyers queuing up to play the 'human rights' card.

Many are now focusing on whether or not this will be the end of Jacqui Smith's career as Britain's premier purveyor of catastrophic errors - she faces an inquiry by the House of Lords.

A lot of people are now claiming that the raids were only launched in an attempt to garner positive headlines and deflect from the almost constant embarrassing revelations about Smith and other members of the government.

I beg to differ, however; I can't see much positive about this sorry saga.

Firstly, the men have not been found 'innocent' - there was not enough evidence to charge them. That is not quite the same thing, whatever the Muslim Council of Britain would have you believe.

Despite the state of modern Britain, I don't seriously believe for a second that the police would instigate such thorough and well co-ordinated raids unless they were being planned for some time.

Generally, such things are only planned for such a length of time when there's enough anecdotal evidence to suggest it is worth time and resources, which are obviously limited.

The police lost potentially vital hours in both preparation and questioning when former Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick inadvertently revealed top secret documents including the names and addresses of the suspects to photographers as he exited a vehicle outside Downing Street.

Mistakes happen. But I'm more concerned about the mistakes and short-sightedness which is now being swept under the carpet - why were these men in Britain in the first place?

All eleven were here on student visas. Immigration Minister Phil Woolas admitted just weeks previously that student visas represented perhaps the greatest legal loophole in allowing undesirables into Britain.

It is well known that terrorist recruitment and Islamic extremism are a growing force on Britain's university campuses. Some studies estimate that the risk from this source is actually greater than from mosques, even ones with well known extreme clerics.

We have enough home grown terrorists of our own - and yet still these men were allowed in. Not only that, but it quickly emerged that only one of them was actually signed up for a course at a reputable institution. It was also easily proven that they'd all lied about their financial resources - being self-sufficient is allegedly a condition of entry.

Bogus colleges and courses are a growing problem, charging foreign students thousands for what are often fake courses and qualifications. They operate from tiny back-street premises, and often pop back up even when they are closed down. The government estimate that up to 2,000 colleges with 'little or no educational merit' are open and operating in Britain.

Even worse, one of them turned up at immigration control upon landing at a British airport with incorrect documents. One airport immigration official, interviewed later, said his story and documents were 'all over the place'.

Was he detained and deported? No - he was told to come back later for an appointment and allowed to walk free. Days later he was arrested at a Cheetham Hill cyber cafe by armed anti-terrorist officers.

Four of the men signed up for jobs as security guards. Two were working in a large DIY chain, Homebase. If they were working for a company which contracts guards out, which they almost certainly were, they could potentially have been posted anywhere, even at sensitive sites.

There was a case in 2007 in which it emerged an illegal immigrant had been given security clearance to guard Gordon Brown's official car. This individual was part of a batch of 10,000 illegal immigrants cleared for high-level security posts - including ports, airports and sensitive police locations such as evidence stores.

I'm afraid it gets even worse than this, however. Two of the men arrested had worked for a cargo company which has access to planes and secure areas within airports. They may have even attended a 'Level 4 Airport Security Terrorism Awareness' training course, which would have been quite handy had they ever needed to avoid or breach airport security.

At least one of the suspects lived in a house owned by a known al-Qaeda financier, currently on the run.

Now, whether they are innocent or not isn't relevant. They are the tip of an iceberg, and we must question why such people are allowed in at all - especially when they're not even attending a proper university.

What this case proves is that the immigration system is in meltdown.

Why should Jacqui Smith not answer for that? Why should she not also answer for having two men who tried to expose the fact arrested and threatened with life in prison?

Gordon Brown was very quick to announce he was phoning the Pakistani government to demand they 'get tough on terror' after the arrests - but shouldn't he sack the ministers who are actually responsible for this shambles?

It's the responsibility of the government when they rubber stamp immigration documents for undesirables or potential criminals - it is not the fault of the country they come from.

How can the Pakistani authorities possibly be held responsible for our gullibility and incompetence?

We now face years of legal wrangling, all at the taxpayers' expense, to remove these men to Pakistan.

Why were they here in the first place?

Someone must answer this question and expose the system to public scrutiny. Here's a taste of the problems caused once people who shouldn't be here have made it:

Lawyer Mohammed Ayub, who is representing three of the men, said in a statement: "After 13 days in custody, during which no evidence of any wrongdoing was disclosed, they have now been released without charge.

"Our clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time. Our clients are neither extremists nor terrorists."

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the government had been "dishonourable" over the way it had dealt with the men.

Mr Bunglawala told the BBC that when the arrests "took place in very dramatic circumstances of students being pulled out of university and thrown to the floor" the public had been assured the men posed a serious threat.

He said it was unacceptable for the government to make these sorts of prejudicial remarks from the outset and then, having found insufficient evidence to bring charges, to deport the men anyway.

"Politics should not be interfering with what is primarily a legal process," he said.

"What we don't want is people becoming cynical as a result of politician's premature remarks and thinking: 'well, that's what they said last time'."

Well, Mohammed Ayub will be laughing all the way to the bank - not that he has an agenda or anything, I'm sure.

In addition, it costs on average £50,000 per detainee to keep immigrants awaiting deportation in custody, so that's even more reason to not allow things to reach this point.

Jacqui Smith and her predecessors have far more to answer for than one inquiry could ever do justice to.

No comments: