Friday, 2 December 2011

Standing One Inch Tall

Leila is from abroad. She has a baby in a buggy and a cute little girl who asks me politely for a pen so she can draw. The children are well dressed and impeccably behaved.

Although she has been in this country long enough that one child is in school, her immigration case has been refused, and she and her family are being evicted from their hostel by Social Services today.

I have to tell her we've reached the end of the line. She can go to a home her children have never seen, put her children into care, or disappear. I'm prohibited by law from advising her to disappear, but what woman voluntarily abandons her children into care if she has some other option? And how can she take her British born children to face penury in a country where the welfare state is non-existent?

Leila gives me piece of her mind in a dignified way. As she leaves I feel one inch tall. It's not my fault the law works this way, but I still feel guilty.

Lorelei had a disabled child, and for a period survived by giving blow jobs in car parks so she could feed him. We were able to do something for her after a while.

In this great city where over 300 languages are spoken every day, the humiliation and privation that you are subjected to vectors first towards skin colour and the foreign, and then a lack of the right documents. In this great city people will do what they have to, to get by.

Kenneth Clarke the Justice Minister recently said there was an "army of lawyers advancing behind a line of women and children, saying of course they are not concerned about the income of the profession; their only concern is for these vulnerable clients who will be adversely affected if they are not paid at the rate they currently are.”

Kenneth, I can tell you this for free. If you had seen the so called army of women and children I have seen, you too would feel one inch tall.

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