The various international agreements and conventions stipulating that there should be a free movement of people around the world doesn't actually include entry to other countries.
Nation states everywhere are enjoying the privilege of banning people from entering - it's a way of politically marking disapproval.
The UK today introduced a new clause in its immigration laws stating that non-EU citizens accused of serious human rights violations could be banned from entering the country.
"Where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses, the individual will not normally be permitted to enter the United Kingdom," the human rights report released today stated.
With the new rule, campaigners South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG) believe that Modi should not be allowed to visit the country.
But whatever you may say of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, he has not, as yet, been convicted of any crime.
People get banned all the time. The US banned a UK resident who tweeted he would "destroy" America, referring to his plans to have a great time on holiday. Canada banned controversial British MP George Galloway. The US banned singer Yusuf Islam(formerly Cat Stevens).
And, most hypocritically, the UK let Augusto Pinochet into the country, knowing his past crimes, and then arrested him with the intention of sending him back to Chile to be tried for those crimes. Campaigners wanted the Pope arrested the last time he visited the UK.
So which world do we live in? Do we spin on the same planet where people can get arrested for human rights abuses wherever they go? Or do we turn a blind eye to whatever they do in their own country and just tell them not to come to our own nation because we can't be bothered with the paperwork?
Banning people from entry suits a certain enflamed section of the population who don't like foreigners, and is an overly simplistic solution for foreign-based rights groups who cannot otherwise get actual charges laid against offending individuals. "We kept him out" might look good as a "result", but doesn't change much, and doesn't help accountability, nor the administration of justice.
And for all the talk of human rights "laws", the suggestion is these new rules will not actually require you to have broken any laws.
The Observer reports that the new rules will state: "Foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area may only come to the UK if they satisfy the requirements of the immigration rules. Where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses, the individual will not normally be permitted to enter the UK."
That opens you to the very problem of the piecemeal and border-officer-by-border-officer approach in the US, where they can turn you around simply because they don't like the look of you. A brother of mine was once prevented from entering the US on a music scholarship because they feared he wouldn't leave. He tried a week later at a different border crossing and they let him in.
Which groups will be trusted to give evidence where court trials have taken place? What about countries such as China that find people guilty of crimes, but the individuals were merely pro-democracy campaigners?
Injecting politics into the veins of immigration policy is always dangerous and inflammatory. The UK is opening itself to objections - left, right and centre, - to individuals entering its borders.
Immigration rules fall far short of the burden of proof of laws, and the Modi example is just the first of what will be many examples of technically and legally innocent people being potentially banned from the free travel theoretically assigned to all peoples. Modi may not be innocent - but I'm as incapable of judging that as immigration officers, and we should all be careful who we allow to make such judgements.
First Published On : Apr 30, 2012 16:52 IST