Perspective: Elderly dependent relatives

In the first of a series of perspectives on family immigration, written by sponsors campaigning against rule changes in the field of family immigration, Sonel from Brit Cits offers her views on how the rules have affected elderly dependent relatives with a counter proposal.

A lot has been said and written about the new immigration rules brought in by the government although I’m not sure how much is being heard or read.

What I do know is none of the politicians – and in this I include all Tory and Labour MPs (Lib Dems have been eerily quiet) –admit how driven these rules are by politicians on power trips, nor do they understand the ramification on British lives of application of ruthless rules more reminiscent of Enoch Powell’s philosophies, than a progressive, western, developed and indeed, ‘Christian’ country.

British citizens have lost all chances of sponsoring their non-EU parents to join them in the UK. I have asked more MPs than I have fingers to give me three examples of when a parent would qualify to join their child in the UK under these new rules and be physically able to take a flight to come here. None have been able to give me one.

According to “Statement of Intent: Family Migration”, dated June 2012 (para 118 – 125), for a non-EEA parent to join their British citizen child all the below must be satisfied:

  1. “Parent must be unable to wash/dress themselves” So parents must effectively be paralysed yet expected to be able to get on a plane, fly for hours and fit into plane toilets to reach the UK. Bear in mind, if the parent is visiting you in the UK, they CANNOT apply from here.
  2. “Parent must not have anyone else in their home country who can help bathe/dress them” So if the parent has access to a nursing home, home-help, siblings, children, siblings or close friends they cannot come over.
  3. “Sponsor to demonstrate that with financial help from them combined with help from any local health/welfare system parent cannot obtain the required level of care, and;
  4. Sponsor must prove their parent will be maintained, accommodated and cared for in UK, without recourse to public funds.” So if you don’t have money, your parent can’t come over.

I stand by what I said. No one will qualify under these rules, making a mockery of Conservative family manifesto of making “Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe” and Theresa May’s declaration that Britain is a ‘Christian’ country. I see no Christian principles applied in her rules. I asked for examples of case studies when people would satisfy the elderly dependants I think is so rigid it’s impossible to meet. Mark Harper came back with a link to the following:

Under annex 6.0, section 2.2.5 three examples are given indicating situations when someone might meet the criteria. However, the criteria is such that the government says the criteria is met, only if a part of the criteria is met!! Essentially tautology, and therefore meaningless. As I have been saying for months now, I can’t envisage a situation where someone could demonstrate they have the financial means to take care of their loved one in the UK (say £x) but that this £x combined with help from the social system in the home country, and any friends or family is not sufficient to buy the care to help wash and dress.

E.g. extracted from the government’s report:

1. (a) A person (aged 25) has a learning disability that means he cannot feed, wash or dress himself. His parents have recently died in an accident and his only surviving close relative is a brother in the UK who has been sending money to the family for some time. The person has been cared for temporarily by family friends since his parents’ death, but they are no longer able to do this. The sponsor is unable to meet the costs of full-time residential care, but he and his family have sufficient financial and other means to care for the applicant in their home. This could meet the criteria if the applicant can demonstrate that they are unable even with the practical and financial help of the sponsor to obtain the required level of care in the country where they are living because it not available and there is no person in that country who can reasonably provide it or it is not affordable and other relevant criteria are met.

The cruelty of the rules is shown startlingly well, by this:

4. (e) A person (aged 85) lives alone in Afghanistan. With the onset of age he has developed very poor eyesight, which means that he has had a series of falls, one of which resulted in a hip replacement. His only son lives in the UK and sends money to enable his father to pay for a carer to visit each day to help him wash and dress, and to cook meals for him. This would not meet the criteria because the sponsor is able to arrange the required level of care in Afghanistan.

I plead with ALL of you to contact your local MP – who by law, has to respond – and let them know how disgusting it is that hard working, tax-paying Brits have lost the right to live with their parent under this government – one that none of us elected – especially where the parents have no one else to turn to.

If these rules aren’t repealed soon, predictions for a future Britain are dire – brain drain. Hard working, tax-paying, educated Brits will move elsewhere (in EU or outside) where they can exercise their right and indeed, duty, to live with and look after their parent/s.

If you are not at all affected by these rules, consider the scenario where one of your children moves to Australia, Canada or USA. All countries I’d consider as comparable to our culture, way of life and beliefs. Would the government there allow you to live with your child? A loud, irrevocable, yes. And you wouldn’t even need to be on your death bed.

Divides and Rules

Recently the family immigration campaign has circled around a debate about the fairness of the rule changes in comparison with other migrants.fia12.png

Immigration is a political issue, and a divisive one at that. There are those that want restrictions increased to relieve perceived pressure on the state and job market, and those that think they are ineffective and unhelpful for Britain’s economy and culture.

Family immigration I have always viewed as a unique area in this debate – since the main thrust of the campaign against the rule changes is a moral one; not identified by economic or cultural arguments. Indeed, the economic arguments used in justification for the rule changes we have repeatedly dismissed as pointless in light of ‘no recourse to public funds’.

But to criticise other sorts of migrants as somehow responsible for the axe falling on British sponsors is to bark up the wrong tree. A statement being often repeated, socially and now in the media, is that other European citizens have a greater right to family life here than British citizens. While this is true, it certainly isn’t their fault, and it is extremely important not to interpret this as foreign citizens being favoured over British citizens. It’s a point that I believe risks undermining and distracting attention from our intentions, towards one of EU membership and reducing the rights of citizens and non citizens to the lowest outcome – that if ‘we’ can’t have families then ‘they’ shouldn’t either.

Before July 2012 we all had a right to a family life, qualified in different ways. Then, that right for  British citizens became qualified beyond all practicality – while the government was unable to affect change on the rights of EEA nationals. But it would be an act of extremely misguided faith to suggest that withdrawal from the EU, and subsequent restrictions on EEA nationals would bring back the right to a family life to British citizens. One must remember that with ‘no recourse to public funds’ already a criteria for family sponsors, it is only the desperate act of saving face that is driving the rule changes, so the government can claim to meet it’s manifesto pledge on reducing net migration. Diminishing the rights of EEA nationals (by withdrawing from the EU or otherwise) would only help them preserve their reputation; not exchange one group’s rights for our own. This is not least because the government plans to abolish the Human Rights Act itself – locking out even further human rights protections, than the ones sponsors are denied already.

The truth is, family reunification has been a staple part of the EU’s human rights framework for decades. The European Convention on Human Rights is the bedrock of domestic human rights protections in the EU’s member states – including Britain. It strikes me that if the EU can sustain protections for a private family life, even while it bears down on its own borders, then there is no reason why British citizens should not be appealing to this higher principle – that we are Europeans too (like it or not), we have these rights in other member states, so why not in our own country? – It’s a far more rallying cry to me than ‘if we aren’t allowed a family life, then they shouldn’t be allowed one either’.

Our campaign simply cannot be allowed to fall into camps over European nationals – their rights haven’t changed, it’s ours that have. As such, European nationals represent the standard that we are striving to restore – by arguing that we should attempt to strip European nationals of their right to a family life, is to consign our own struggle to redundancy; since we will all then be eligible for a means-tested non-EEA relationship in the UK.

In my view, it’s precisely the obsession with sovereignty over home affairs which has resulted in such unfair measures being exacted against sponsors; while all other European nationals have better protected rights, derived from a European level.

The greatest disservice we could do to our fight and to other sponsors and families is to start carving up migrants as the deserving and undeserving – and with such laudable aims, it would be dangerous to leave ourselves vulnerable to divide and rule within the wider immigration and EU debates. We all have the right to a family life under the UN Declaration of Human Rights; one which needs to be realised fully for British citizens and residents too. Pointing the finger at others won’t strengthen our argument, but merely chip away at the credibility of our cause.

Finally, one thing we lack is optimism, and understandably so. When cheated out of a family by your own government, it’s easy to scorn others who have not. So I want to appeal to EEA nationals to join the campaign to restore the right to a family life for British sponsors too, 1) because tensions between Britain and the EU may recoil onto your rights too, and 2) because you demonstrate and exercise a standard of rights we once shared, and long to have back.



John’s story

I met my wife in 2008 when she was studying for a BSc in Business Information Systems. We got married in August 2011, however my wife had claimed asylum and it had been rejected and was going through appeals. Unfortunately she hasn’t been able to regularise her stay in this country and she has been told to go back and apply for entry clearance from her home country of Zimbabwe. The problem is I am self-employed and I do not earn the £18 600 required to sponsor my wife. We own our own house I have never claimed any benefits all my life. To make matters worse my wife had a miscarriage at the end of September. I worry about what’s going to happen to us, when I will be separated from her and everyday is just full of worry and depression. I am 58 and I find it difficult that the Home Secretary has said I should uproot myself and go and live in Zimbabwe if I want to stay with my wife. It’s heartbreaking to know that other EU nationals can come and live in this country with no hassles when I am a British citizen and have to be punished for loving someone and for not being rich. John

Migrant and Refugee Women of the Year

Just a quick plug for this annual award:

Check it out and nominate a woman you think deserves credit for their services in improving the standing of migrants!




Sophie’s story

I’ve been wondering for so long if there was a way I could make contact with other people in my situation and to hear other stories. I am so glad to have come across this blog.
I am 23 years old and met my husband, a South African Citizen, almost 2 and a half years ago. He lives and works in Spain, and has done for most of his working life, and we met whilst I was out there in 2010. I returned to the UK but stayed in touch with him during my last year at University, chatting through Skype and Facebook. The following Summer we were reunited again as I graduated and moved out to Spain to live with him and work. Our relationship grew from strength to strength. He applied for a Visitors Visa so that he could come to the UK with me over Christmas and New Year and visit England for the first time. It was such an incredible experience to have him here with my family and friends, and I knew that we could be so happy living together in the UK.
At the beginning of this year we travelled to South Africa together. I had been given a 6-month voluntary placement at a school close to his family home in Cape Town. This was an amazing opportunity to visit his home, meet his family and spend time with them. We decided to get married and my parents flew out to Cape Town to be with us on our special day. It was the most incredible day of my life. From there, we returned to Spain to work another Summer with a view to settling down together in the UK by the end of the year. We had spent so much time studying the UKBA website page so that we were aware of the rules, that we didn’t check it again over the Summer. Of course, this is when all the laws changed, and having been out of the country for the whole year meant that we had no idea! I knew that I had to return to the UK to find a permanent job so we could begin the visa application, so I returned in September and began working as a Learning Support Assistant. It’s a job that doesn’t pay well at all, but a job that I loved.
Shortly after returning, I decided to check the UKBA website, just to see if there had been any updates. What I saw shocked and appalled me. Sitting in my room, reading through the new rules…I felt sick. I called my husband immediately but I just didn’t know how to break this news to him. It was so hard to process all this new information, but what was clear was that our dreams of being together, permanently, in the UK before Christmas were shattered. I knew that I had no choice but to start looking for another job. I began searching but had no idea how much chance I stood of finding something that fulfilled the financial requirement. I consider myself lucky that I am a Graduate and I live in the South East of England, and so after one month of searching, I was finally offered a job. Handing in my notice at my school and explaining why was embarrassing and upsetting, but thankfully everybody has been so nice and understanding. I am now in my final two weeks and set to begin my new job soon. Now, we must wait 6 months before we can apply for the Settlement Visa.
In an attempt to find a way to be together in the meantime, my husband applied for a Family Visit Visa which was refused on the grounds that he was not a ‘Genuine’ visitor and was at risk of overstaying and not returning to Spain. What I cannot understand is why on Earth would we break the law, knowing the consequences, when we are a young couple starting out our life together? and why it is not ‘genuine’ that a married couple might want to spend some time together!!! It just makes no sense. I was even more shocked to hear that the appeal process takes 6-12 months!!! So what’s the point? Now we are left with no choice but to be separated, probably for about a year (taking into account the time it can take to process the visa once we have applied). I will have to fly out to Spain as often as I can, wasting money that we could be saving towards a house and the extortionate cost of the visa itself!
I find the whole thing absolutely unbelievable and I realise that there are people out there who are affected by this in worse ways than us. My husband and I do consider ourselves lucky, with me managing to get a job and him living not too far way in Spain, but still…no married couple should have to go through this and live in separate countries, just so our Government can try and prove that it is tackling immigration. It is quite frankly disgusting.
Am I supposed to feel ashamed for marrying a non-EU citizen? Is this a kind of punishment for daring to marry outside the European Union?! It certainly feels like it.
My heart goes out to all those who have posted their story on this page and anyone who is facing this incredibly difficult situation. All I know is that our love will get us through anything and I would never, ever change my husband for the world.