Family Migration - Impact of New Rules

GMT 10:07 Wednesday ,11 September 2013

 Migrant Voice - Family Migration -  Impact of New Rules


New rules wreak havoc Last year Home Secretary Theresa May laid rules on family immigration before Parliament in an obscure procedure and wreaked havoc on thousands of people’s lives. UK spouses with non-EU partners were expected to be earning £18,600 before they could ‘sponsor’ their other half for a visa to join them in the UK, rising to £22,400 to also bring one child, and £2,400 for each further child. This prevents 47% of the UK working population from sponsoring a foreign partner according to the Migration Observatory. Research at Middlesex University shows that this rule discriminates against the young, the old, women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and those living outside London and the south-east. Because of the almost secretive way the rules were implemented, many families were caught out suddenly. Andy, married to a Chinese national having previously worked in China, was living with his wife and two sons in the UK. She was here on a temporary visa as they wanted time to see how she and the boys would adapt to life in the UK. She returned to China for an extended holiday to apply for a spouse visa and visit family members. The rules were changed during her time in China and she was separated from her husband and sons for more than a year. Izzy and Phil, an Anglo-Australian couple with three children, moved from Australia to be close to Izzy’s terminally ill mother. Although Izzy’s income is enough to satisfy the requirement, the Home Office is threatening to deport Phil to Australia because the couple has failed to prove their sustained relationship. People affected by the rules are usually taking one or a combination of three courses of action: • campaigning against the rules alongside thousands of other similarly affected • filing court cases against the restrictions, with a partial success being won in July when Justice Blake ruled that the “interference in family life is disproportionate and unlawful”. • taking the European Route – whereby couples move to another European Union country and work for a minimum of 13 weeks and then enter the UK as European citizens, who have no nonsensical rules barring them from living with whom they choose in their country of origin. For British people, to have to jump through such hoops to bring their rights in line with other EU citizens in the UK, the question has to be asked: What is the Home Office trying to achieve by splitting up families? As Izzy, who faces her husband’s deportation puts it, “The British immigration system is failing the British people”. Immigration restrictions are not just a problem for immigrants. Couples separated by marriage Christine is talking on the phone. She is happy and tense. Happy because she is talking to her husband in Damascus. Tense because there have been six explosions today in the Syrian capital. Christine is a 32-year-old British PhD student from Leeds who applied for a visa for her Syrian husband, Ziad, in April. They met and married while she was studying Arabic in Syria. She fulfils all the new legal financial requirements for bringing in a spouse and has the support of an MP who took up her case with the Home Office and the minister responsible for immigration. Despite all this, her application has been rejected. On a technicality, the UK Border Agency did not accept the document provided by her bank to prove her financial status, but it didn’t ask her for other evidence. Christine is furious. She blames a shift in the political climate of immigration. A new immigration law had been introduced, she argues, but it is not the changes in financial requirements that are significant: “What changed is the political attitude. I feel that any tiny inconsistency in the application becomes an excuse to reject it entirely, instead of assessing it in an objective way.” Many commentators have said that the law discriminates against vulnerable people, especially women, mothers, and young people, who find it almost impossible to sponsor a non-European Union partner because their partner’s salary is not high enough to meet the law’s requirements. Laura, a 25-year-old veterinary scientist in Edinburgh, is also struggling to sponsor her husband, Muhammed, who has a business management degree and lives and works in Egypt. When the government introduced an English-language requirement, 28-year-old Mohamed sat and passed the test. They were thrilled, thinking they had overcome the final hurdle – only to find the requirements had been changed yet again. “My salary is £18,100, which in Scotland is at the upper end of those with similar qualifications or experiences. The income level that I must fulfil is £18,600. So I had to take on a second job in Pizza Hut. But I don’t get paid for time-off in my part-time job. If I am off sick or for any other reason the six months for calculating income starts again,” she explains. The law also affects refugees, given certain categories of status which do not allow or entitle them to family reunification. They are particularly struggling because, not having been allowed to work while waiting for their status, they now find it hard to reach the level of income required. For example, David, a Georgian artist in his 50s, has been in the UK since 2001. He cannot bring his wife and nine-year-old son here because his salary is less than the regulations require, though is confident that it would have been enough to support his family. The money barrier is not the only problem that Christine, Laura and David share. All of them, and many others, are in an emotional limbo. Laura’s first years of marriage were shadowed by the constant fear that despite her efforts, “it is not enough to fulfil the UKBA’s constant changing of rules”. David sees his son’s life through Skype, and emphasises that “nobody can substitute the role of a father.” Christine is tormented by the impossibility of helping her husband in Damascus, even though he lives in a war zone “where his life has been in danger more than once”. If her next application is rejected, she will consider moving to Lebanon, although security there has also deteriorated. In addition, “it would mean suspending my studies and paying back the funding I received, which is unaffordable”. If the visa is rejected, “there will be 10 or 11 months of appeal process during which Damascus might be destroyed and I wouldn’t see him again”. Such uncertainty and hardship puts pressure on relationships with spouses and children, and often affects health. Laura cannot stop worrying, suffers from insomnia and takes anti-depressants. “I don’t have a social life and have missed several important family occasions like birthdays, weddings and funerals because I have to work so much,” she says. Christine, Laura and David feel their lives are on hold. “How can I describe what it is to live separated from my family?” asks David. “How can I explain it in English? Even in Georgian I cannot describe how I feel.” Article by: Guy Taylor and Veronica Ferreri Photo of Christine and Ziad


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