Shirley & EvelynDespite the widespread recognition that the expulsion of Shirley Edwards and Evelyn Calcabrini, two Welsh-Argentines attempting to visit Wales, by the UK Border Agency at Heathrow must have been some sort of mistake, both have once again been refused entry by the UKBA.

When this story first appeared in the press it was reported as an act of ignorance by a clueless UK Border Agent, unaware of the Welsh speaking region of Patagonia. With questions in the House of Commonsprotests at Whitehall, (giving out leaflet calling for the resignation of Phil Woolas) a campaign from Plaid Cymru, a petition and even a strongly worded editorial in the Daily Telegraph(!) it seemed the entire event was about to be glossed over and written off as a cock up. Following a benefit gig in Gwynedd raising enough money for two return flights, Shirly and Eveyln applied for visas to enter the UK as students. They were refused.

There are reports that these cases are not unique and that other Patagonian travellers to Wales have also been through the highly stressful experience of being turned away by the Border Agency. It appears that rather than the seemingly obvious crass stupidity, the reasoning behind the repeated refusal of entry is down to a distrust of foreign visitors without large savings accounts. An agency spokesperson has stated that:

they must provide financial evidence that they can support themselves during the duration of the trip without recourse to public funds or employment, and satisfy the entry clearance officer that they intend to leave the UK at the end of the period of visit.”

In the eyes of the Home office, the refusal of entry was justified, as anyone visiting the UK from outside the EU is viewed as suspicious, if they’re not rich they are likely to be refused. This matter has caused little concern to the Welsh Office, and though it appears that the Welsh Assembly Government is at odds with the UKBA on the issue, they have no power over such areas.

The truth is that since the introduction of the points based system these type of incidents occur every day at border points across the UK as non-EU visitors are repeatedly forced to justify their entry and even with all the correct paperwork are still be refused entry to the UK upon arrival. The approach of the UKBA is chiefly designed to close the door on the legacy of the British Empire and shut out the victims of imperialism. But in the eyes of the UKBA every refused entry is a success.

When the cultural links are as strong as they undoubtedly are in this case, it acts as yet another illustration, as if one were needed, that immigration controls are not designed to improve people’s lives, but to act as a means of building up increasingly arbitrary forms of social control.