The media influence – a suckered public

I find it continually astounding that the media has such control of people’s lives and thought processes.

Of course, the latest drama here in the UK is over Gamu Nhengu. She was a contestant on public exploitation show, and Simon Cowell bank roller, The X Factor. She was undoubtedly talented and got as far as the “judges’ houses stage”. The is where the show decides who is to make it to the live TV show sing off part of the competition. Well, she was overlooked in favour of at least one candidates who was unquestionably weaker.

Naturally the media has gone potty over Gamu’s rejection. Days after it emerged that Gamu and her family, being Zimbabwean nationals, were fighting a visa refusal the media is suddenly right behind poor Gamu. Well, this weekend, Simon Cowell has also jumped on the bandwagon with his lawyers.

Cowell, incidentally, denies that she didn’t get through due to the immigration issue.

Now, being as my area of law is UK immigration I have some concerns with this case. The theory in the media and with the public is that she should be entitled to stay in the UK because she is a good singer. Well, a good singer she might be, but that is not a reason to be here. I accept that Zimbabwe has many problems, and, indeed, I have helped Zimbabweans in the past because of this. However, if the media is correct, her mother, to whom she is dependant, did not come to the UK seeking protection, she came as a student.

Under the Immigration Rules, anyone who enters the UK as a student has done so on the understanding that they will return at the conclusion of their studies. The only other visa to carry this requirement is a visitor’s (or tourist) visa.  In order to maintain your presence in the UK as a student you must continue to meet the requirements of the rules, this includes attending studies, supporting yourself financially, keeping within the employment restrictions and so on. Student visas do not lead to permanent residency unless you have been on a student visa continuously and unbroken for ten years. Aside from this, the only other exception to the intention to return is if the visa holder goes on to qualify for a skilled worker or post study work visa. Otherwise if his or her studies are concluded she will be expected to go back, whatever her situation. Conversely, if an application for an extension has been made and the applicant no longer meets the rules of said application, again he or she will be expected to go back. In this case there are only five possibilities:-

1) She has been refused because she no longer qualifies to study

2) She has been refused because she does not qualify for an alternate visa

3) She has applied outside the Immigration Rules and has been rejected

4) She broke the Rules during during her previous visa’s term, such as claiming benefits,  working more than she was allowed, failing to attend classes or making unsatisfactory progress in her studies.

5) She applied after her previous visa expired, which will attract an automatic refusal unless the last application was the fault of a third party.

Now, ultimately, we do not know why Gamu’s mother’s visa has been refused. There has been some suggestion that she was claiming benefits, however I very much believe in innocent until proven guilty so I don’t think we can know the exact reason without being privy to her immigration file. What I do know is that if there has been a refusal and a challenge has merit then there is recourse to the courts, either by the standard appeal process if her refusal permits it, or by way of judicial review (which has been hinted).

Whatever the stage of the legal process, what is extremely disturbing in this case is the role the public, the media and now, especially, Mr. Cowell has taken. How ironic it is that the very same Middle England who are always screaming about immigration and its negative effects are now right behind someone because they were on X Factor and seemed a nice girl with some talent. The double standard is shocking.

However, more sinister perhaps is the sheer power of the media to have this effect on people. Cheryl Cole, who made the decision to reject Gamu from the show (or at least the TV show makes us think that she, and not Cowell, did)  has been on the receiving end of death threats and loud calls of racism. Indeed, I myself in at least one discussion about this have been accused of racism because I did not show 110% support for Gamu and her family, instead choosing to outline the legal process and advocating that we should keep our noses out of legal affairs. Hell, Cole herself used to be married to a black man and even Cowell dated a black woman for many years. Hardly the tell-tale signs of racists.

In a public that is obsessed with England for the English is it amazing that the media can stir up support for such an individual. It just goes to show you how limited the intellect of the public has become and how that are like sheep who will be fed anything. An immigrant with a talented daughter should not be allowed to remain in this country just because of her daughter, however heart wrenching it may be for some to accept.  If she were allowed to stay it would set a precedent for future immigrants that the Rules do not matter if you can get on TV. That is fundamentally wrong.

No, if Gamu’s mother qualifies legally for a visa then she should be entitled to remain. If she does not then she and her dependants should go, talented daughter or not. Therefore the media should keep its nose out and leave the legal process to the UK Border Agency and the independent courts.

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