Protest meeting at parliamentPosted: 10/07/2012
Yesterday advocates and NGOs gathered to protest against the rule changes to the family immigration rules.
It started with a protest outside the Home Office, with some creative chanting, singing and acting to explain the rules.
We all moved along to a very well attended meeting at parliament afterwards chaired by Lord Judd, hearing Keith Vaz, Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Churchill, a fellow sponsor and promoter of the impact on ordinary people.
A full run down of speakers and their comments can be found here: http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2012/07/family-migration-lobby-parliament-brief
I also got to speak and cited some of the experiences I have been contacted about through the FIA. Now really is the time to speak out and make yourselves heard, from here on we’ll ourselves speaking alongside many other family sponsors caught unaware of the rule change.
The rate of stories and enquiries I’ve received has really increased since the announcement, and I anticipate many more. Please let others you know in the same situation know that I would welcome their stories.
Full transcript below:
The reason I wanted to speak today is very simple. I believe that the right to a private family life, which I was born with, is about to be subverted.
It’s been abundantly written and discussed so far how disproportionate and unfair the family immigration rules are to vast swathes of the public; particularly to young people, who with challenging employment prospects, and now dwindling recourse to public funds of their own, can now be denied the simple human happiness of a married life too.
I find myself reiterating that I don’t object to being asked to support a spouse if they fail to find employment. But what these rule changes implement, is the wilful ignorance to the spouse’s financial contribution to the family and the needless exclusion of 3rd party support, producing huge inconsistencies and in my opinion a second class of citizens.
To highlight the inconsistency, and the stratified citizenship that follows for sponsors, I wanted to bring up an example of a person who contacted me recently with an enquiry about their situation. This was a South African man, living in India with a British wife and two British children under 4. He asked in disbelief whether these rule changes were really going ahead, and that despite the fact he provided the chief income for the family, that it would be his wife, a part time child care assistant, who would have to demonstrate the £18600 income threshold. Without knowing the finer details, I concurred that this seemed to be the case and added that it could potentially be higher with the two dependents. After some investigation with the MRN and JCWI it transpired that this wasn’t the case, because the children were British. So that was a small relief for him. But it stunned me that for the shear arbitrariness of the fact that these two dependents were British, they, as dependents, would be omitted from the threshold.
We are told that the reason for this income threshold is to prevent people (who as it stands cannot claim recourse to public funds) from being a burden to the welfare state, and that sponsors need to be able to demonstrate that they can support immigrant family members. But where there’s no need to demonstrate that you can support British family members as well, the point becomes entirely moot and to me begs the question that if the economy is forcing this change, then what’s stopping the government from rolling out an income threshold across all families UK, irrespective of their Non-EEA status. At least then we’d all remain equal in our rights, or lack thereof.
Ultimately, a policy of this nature cannot operate for long, before this schism in purpose and outcome widens to a point of embarrassment.
And I’ll go even further to say, we won’t lose this campaign. It’s the kind of harsh and festering inequality that will unfortunately push more and more migrants and citizens into active opposition, as families increasingly find themselves inadequately reflected in these rules, and incapable of making an ordinary, unobtrusive life here in the UK.
I can cite myself, and I’m sure many others of you here as examples of this. Just over a year ago I was not an activist, I had never been to the houses of parliament and had no idea about this level of immigration policy. But I was returning to the UK, from poverty and near homelessness with my New Zealnder wife, where with support from parents we have since been able to set a self sustaining life together, without recourse to public funds.
But when you’re angry and put out, unsupported by your government and facing an uphill battle to attain nothing more than what your friends and family with British spouses have, then complaining becomes your only course of action.
What the government seems adamant on not mentioning is that they are threatening to split apart people’s families. So without resorting to a Braveheart like cry of freedom, I know you all agree when I say that this is patently, morally, wrong.
To the proponents of these rule changes, I’d like to say that for you this has been the easy bit. You will have more to answer for as awareness of this injustice increases, and ferocity of objection with it. Families will endure, and their sense of injustice will intensify; because there is literally nothing more important to us than our loved ones.
But for opponents to the rule changes, I think it’s a positive outlook. Yesterday there were reports of a U turn on the international students cap, and I know that the power of personal testimonies has been a significant feature of the NUS’ ‘share-your-story’ campaign against it.
So our job is remarkably easy. The stress and inconvenience of being unable to live with your spouse or simply having the spectre of visa application hanging over you is difficult to ignore, and all we have to do is keep telling people how upset this makes us.
The only pang of disappointment I have today is that my government feels that it’s OK to chance-their-arm in ruining people’s lives and deny them one of their most fundamental human rights in their pursuit of reducing net migration. It shouldn’t be our responsibility to maintain our right to a family life, but I have supreme confidence that there is a no angrier and more hurt group of people than family sponsors, to make sure we get it back.
The government cannot economise families, like they can the welfare system. And we are not just collateral damage