Progress marked by Divided Families Day

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A week ago the Divided Families Campaign made it’s strongest display of objection
and unity against the family immigration rules. The day began with the presentation of a petition to 10 Downing Street – a sure sign that the campaign is beginning to reach a new level of importance. This is poignant because it follows an important High Court judgement describing the income threshold as unfair and recommending an amount closer to £13000 per annum.  This is a fantastic result so close to the anniversary of the rules. It represents a huge success for the contributions and evidence submitted by the FIA and other colleagues in the campaign.

In the afternoon there was a terrific turn out to a demonstration outside the Home Office. The mood was quite a contrast to the same event a year ago and marked by the understandable outrage that parents, children and spouses are feeling. Many spoke of their heart breaking experiences under the new rules, which served as a bittersweet reminder of the wide ranging toll the rules have taken in one year.   The day concluded with some excellent contributions in parliament. High profile speakers, including the Dr Maggie Atkinson, The Children’s Commissioner for England (speaking of behalf of Northern Ireland, Scotland Wales), Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and Sarah Teather MP – a long standing ally of the campaign – all contributed. The key takeaway was the power of personal testimonies. Your stories have been making a real difference in this campaign, as increasing numbers of MPs and peers start to speak out about the devastating effect these rules have had. Take a look at the pictures from the whole day, courtesy of Jason Wen. I feel a confident and tangible a sense of progress towards overturning such a controversial rules on and this is thanks largely to you sharing your stories.

The message is as simple as ever – keep on blogging, sharing, posting, signing and enquiring about this issue. The tide is turning. Chris FIA


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 criteria..one I think is so rigid it’s impossible to meet. Mark Harper came back with a link to the following:
http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/IDIs/chp8-annex/

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.


Family Immigration rules announced

The government has announced its plans to adopt the Migration Advisory Committee’s proposals on family immigration, taking effect on 9th July 2012. The Family Immigration Alliance, as an organisation formed around the needs of families and sponsors, has a clear objection to the government’s adoption of these proposals.

The proposals constitute a severe erosion of civil liberties for huge numbers of working sponsors, whereby the right to a family life has become conditioned beyond practicality at £18600; without recourse to public funds. While recognising the need to demonstrate support, the FIA considers the threshold of these proposals an act of obscene discrimination not only against citizens/residents with non-EU spouses, but against ethnic minorities, poor, young and disabled people. To deprive access to family members and the individual income they bring to a household presents the most vulnerable in society with an ominous future. More worryingly, it sets the foundation for a deeply stratified society, where finance extends beyond your quality of life, into your freedom to have a family at all.

The government has opted for a view that economics alone should be the benchmark for immigration rules across all categories. In the opinion of the FIA, this fails to recognise the non-economic motivations behind family immigration and indeed reveals how piecemeal the government’s efforts to support family life in the UK really are. This we find to be morally unacceptable and a shameful digression from the values of British society (not to mention their manifesto) – values that migrants across all categories are forced to prove their knowledge of for settlement purposes.

This has become an issue which starts with a supposed clamp down on a distracting minority of criminals and ends with the relegation of innocent UK sponsors to a second class of citizenship; dictated by personal finances.

The Family Immigration Alliance was set up to not to let sponsors be quietly reduced to collateral damage and will continue to campaign – now to restore the once equal rights of sponsors.

There are a number of blogs covering the details of this further, and some with damning parody!

Please also sign the e-petition in opposition to the new Family Immigration rules and vote here on Ian Birrell’s concise criticism of them.

For sponsors there is of course no better time to speak up about this injustice. The FIA is here to voice your concerns. Please email familyimmigrationalliance@gmail.com with your stories and reflections.

Chris

FIA


Migrant Voice post

The recently launched newspaper Migrant Voice has posted a few thoughts from me on the family immigration proposals. You can see the post here.

 

Chris

FIA


A Social Media

It’s been an exciting few weeks for the Family Immigration Alliance, and with hesitancy on the announcement of the family immigration proposals it has provided time to collaborate and reflect on objectives.

I’ve been encouraged to find others with using the same methods lately, to gather the stories of immigrants in a particular area of immigration, and publicise them. This recognition that the voices of immigrants are all too often left out of the media discussion has prompted some interesting activity, in one instance from a particularly big hitter.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has started its campaign on student immigration, called “share your story”. Take a look at their facebook page: International Students Against UK Immigration Changes. International students are invited to “rant, moan and say it all”, and with good reason. In this recent Migration Pulse post , Daniel Stevens cites some upsetting (and easily empathised) stories of students unable to attend funerals because of UKBA passport holding, students forced to leave the country because of trivial application mistakes, or forced to repay the fee for the same insignificances. I’ll be fascinated to see the impact of their campaign, and am pleased to see them getting regular newspaper coverage from their news feed.

From a contrasting origin, a newly started website I was recently asked to contribute to, www.immigrantworkerslondon.com, has been gathering experiences from a much wider perspective on the affects of immigration restrictions on individuals. To its advantage, it’s run by trainee journalists, and they focus on recording audio interviews with the people they come across. To hear a few minutes of my interview with them, check out their website, and the broad range of experiences they are cataloguing on the site.

The one thing the FIA and these other examples all have in common is that the contributors have reached the end of their tether. The sheer audacity of the proposals and ignorance to the silent hardship that immigration rules cause, has driven immigrants, commentators (and family members of course) to do exactly what the NUS has called on its students to do – rant, moan and say it all.

The catharsis of the process, as cited here before, is a way of making yourself feel better in the short term. But in the longer term, it’s becoming a method of prompting change and influencing public immigration discourse, and – hopefully – policy.

It’s also encouraging that independently from each other the response to the frustration felt in distinct areas of immigration has been to pool these human experiences. If those from such diverse approaches to the issue have resorted to this mechanism of support and publicity, then it lends credit to the hope that it really is a salient and effective method of influencing the public perception.

Last week, the Migrants Rights Network hosted their Annual Networking summit. In a panel discussion with Enver Solomon of the Childrens Society, the role of anecdotal evidence was discussed as a really strong force in immigration debate. He cited MPs as particularly receptive these stories.

So, collectively, the role of social media in immigration looks incredibly decisive. With the aforementioned time we seem to have gained in the area of family immigration, there is a lot of potential to shape the debate, and soften areas of a frequently anti-social media, before a decision is made.

I would strongly urge you to share your stories and experiences in family immigration on this page. Better still, encourage your friends and relatives affected by family immigration rules to write up their experience. This doesn’t have to be on visa applications/appeals but the predicament the very prospect of it can through you into. The threat of separation by visa can end relationships, spousal or otherwise; and this is a story that is just as valid here.

If you feel your experience of immigration has been unfair to you, there is no better time to make it count for something.

Chris
FIA


How much are you worth?

To the government, that would be £35000 if you come from outside the EU.

The government today announced it’s plans for migrant workers, stipulating that if the visa applicant does not fit into certain employment requirements, they will be required to have an income of above this threshold.

The JCWI explains this in greater detail: http://jcwi.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/settlement-changes/

and Free Movement dub it in more unsettling terms: http://www.freemovement.org.uk/2012/02/29/guest-worker-era-begins/

The uncomfortable phrase “brightest and best” keeps cropping up in the rhetoric. The government has clearly defined this group by extremely high financial characteristics. If wealth is all that matters, then I can’t see this assisting in the sustained demand for integration.  It doesn’t address the problem of unemployment in the UK, and indeed will further isolate immigrants from the disenchanted, underprivileged, white, British community.

If you’re affected, or know anybody who is, I’m pleased to promote a website set up with a similar purpose to the FIA. immigrantworkerslondon.com is gathering stories about all sorts of migrant groups – many of whom will be affected by the proposals announced today.

We all know that money isn’t everything. For the FIA, “best and brightest” doesn’t compute when it comes to family members. But very soon the government will be deciding on the worth of migrant family members, by calculating the worth of the sponsor.

Please send in your thoughts and stories, and watch this space for the government’s announcement…

 

Chris

FIA


The Voiceless Sponsors part 2

Today the Migrants’ Rights Network posted part 2 of my guest post for them, as part of the launch of the Family Immigration Alliance.

You can view it here: http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/migration-pulse/2012/voiceless-sponsors-part-2

While the government considers the Migration Advisory Committee’s proposals to review the minimum income threshold, less attention has been drawn to the non-economic dimensions of family immigration. Such proposals open up a deeply worrying prospect not only for immigrants, but for British citizens too. The blogsite Family Immigration Alliance hopes to alter this discourse with a human side. Read more…

 

Chris

FIA