Will immigration dialogue follow Home Office stand off?

A week on from the thwarted attempt by immigration officials to remove two Indian nationals from one of Glasgow’s most diverse neighbourhoods, the political fallout is still keenly felt.

The so-called practice of dawn raids has long been controversial in the city, which has been the only dispersal area in Scotland for asylum seekers for more than two decades. But the flashpoint in Pollokshields felt like a transformative moment.

Hundreds of local residents took to the streets to block the Home Office vehicle from departing. In doing so, they attracted international media attention, framing a community raging against the UK government’s divisive immigration policies.

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The Home Office has indicated that it will again seek to deport the two men, Lakhvir Singh and Sumit Sehdev. Border Force officials say both have overstayed their visas by several years and have not been granted leave to remain.

It may well succeed. It is also worth remembering that while the focus has been on the plight of Mr Singh and Mr Sehdev, others have been detained, including another Indian national held in Glasgow on the very same day.

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But the tension evident during that failed detention should spur change around a vital issue which impacts on economic growth, depopulation, skills shortages, and tax revenues, issues which have become even more vexed post-Brexit.

In Australia, the immigration system has sufficient flexibility to allow regional governments and businesses to recruit migrant workers, and there is a powerful argument that Scotland - and indeed, the rest of the UK - would benefit financially and culturally from such an arrangement.

Unfortunately, any attempts at compromise between Edinburgh and Westminster have failed. Scottish Labour unsuccessfully proposed a Scottish immigration system some 17 years ago, and the SNP have fared little better.

Beyond the rhetoric, however, it is worth acknowledging that the discontent around this stand-off is widespread. As leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw advocated a system reflecting “the needs of the places that need migration most.”

The war of words in the aftermath of Pollokshields will continue to play out. Hopefully, it will be followed by considered and constructive dialogue.

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