Britain's Divided Families: How the UK Government Attacks Human Rights
When I got engaged to my British fiancée last January, never did I imagine the legal farce and xenophobic discrimination which I would face. Now, we are in a situation where we cannot live - or even marry - in my future wife's home country. The reason? I am an American.
This is the cruel reality of falling in love with a non-EU citizen if you are British.
Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence ... There shall be no interference by a public authority on the exercise of this right ...— Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights
In the UK, one of the supposedly most advanced countries in the world, an attack on one of the most fundamental human rights is occurring.
Roughly 17,800 British families are being torn apart every year because their partner is not a European or British citizen. The horrendous law responsible was introduced in July of 2012. If a UK citizen wants to marry outside of European waters, the government has decreed that the British partner must have a minimum income of £18,600. This means that 47% of the British working population, nearly 22 million people, cannot establish a family with someone who is not European. This figure does not include the student population. Neither does it include the unemployed nor retirees, which add many millions to the number of people this law targets.
This law is stringent and inflexible. You must have a salary totalling £18,600 or £62,500 in savings. All to ensure that you are not a "burden on the tax payer". This is the equivalent of a $29,000 salary, or a huge $97,000 in savings. By setting this standard, the government is implying that it is impossible for a couple to subsist on less. This is obviously ridiculous! A figure which has obviously been produced from a London-based perspective. Furthermore, if a family has children, the threshold increases, making the unobtainable all the more difficult to reach. It would not matter if you owned more than the threshold in a property you had worked your entire life for. Or, if you lived outside of London, where the cost of living is considerably less - you would still need the money.
"As a clinically skilled NHS nurse, I'm earning only £14,153 a year in my full-time post. I have been with my partner for three years and unless I leave my nursing job – leaving behind my pension and my career path – and look for something else that pays better, I currently have no chance of having our application approved." - Sarah
“It is affecting a lot of people,” immigration lawyer, Colin Yeo of Garden Court Chambers, has stated. “If you are starting out or live outside London, you are likely to be hit.”
Even if you qualify to live with your family.....
Now, that is not to say that all who wish their spouse or children to live in the UK with them earn less than £18,600. Yet, there are still ridiculous obstacles which you will face.
Even if you meet all the financial requirements needed for living together with your family in the UK, the application fees could break you.
Just the initial costs for obtaining a leave to enter the UK, and filling out all the other paperwork needed, already exceeds £1,000. After five years, if everything proceeds smoothly, the costs can exceed £6,000.
And, even if you can afford that - beware! The government is constantly concocting new ways to attack your finances. Somewhat regularly, fees are increased, with no end in sight! The UK government really is imposing a tax on love.
So, you have made it through financial bombardment, and now you are waiting for the paperwork to process. Surely the worst is over?
The bureaucracy is far, far from perfect. There are an innumerable number of families who fulfill every requirement, and are denied. In fact, it is advised by many who have personally experienced the nightmarish process to be ready to immediately appeal and repay the application fee as soon as your first application is denied.
Do not expect any logical reason for a denial.
The reasons range from mismanagement of your papers by the Home Office to outright rejection. One woman was told that her daughter was not her daughter. Another that breastfeeding was not a compulsory part of infancy, and a child could learn to live without their mother. However, one of the most common draconian reasons given for a denial is that the couple has not proved that they are in a "genuine and affectionate relationship".
"A genuine and affectionate relationship"
Even families with children, and those who have been with their significant other for decades, are being separated by these rules on the basis that they have not proven that they are in a "genuine and affectionate relationship". The definition is open to interpretation, and therefore open to abuse by the UK government - they have institutionalized the meaning of "genuine and affectionate".
This is perhaps the most perverse aspect of this law.
The pains of separation are increased by the UK government's pervasive third-wheeling of relationships. And by third-wheel, I mean the worst and most unwanted third-wheel in the history of third-wheeling! In order to prove their relationship is "genuine", couples frantically provide records of every photograph, email, letter and text message sent between them for the months or even years they had been separated. That is to say that every loving exchange is exposed before the scrutiny of a heartless, malcontented bureaucratic machine.
This, at times, has convinced the authorities that a couples' relationships is genuine.
However, by no means does this action provide a guarantee that their relationship will be approved of. Countless couples have applied not once, not twice, sometimes not even three times, but four or five before being successful. As has been said, sometimes children and decades of married life is not even deemed worthy.
One of the most devastating consequences of this law is the evolution of the term "Skype parenting". Somewhat intuitive, this term refers to the children who have, since 2012, mostly known their father or mother through the internet. Many parents have missed the birth of their child, not to mention their child's first steps, words, birthday and every other incalculable meaningful moment with their family.
Moreover, children who could be being raised in a healthy family environment are living in single-parent households, not from want of another parent, but because the UK government has asserted the right to break families up.
One former Royal Air Force pilot, Jimmy Kershaw, who lives in the UK, is currently separated from his wife and son. They are living in the Philippines, in an area renowned for terrorism and attacks against white people. Despite numerous pleas to get his family out of the Philippines, Kershaw's family are trapped in a hostile zone with an uncertain future.
I have only seen my baby eight months in the last 36 months. I can't cuddle him, I see him on Skype but I can't help him. We have not got that emotional bond. David Cameron says families should be together. The way things are in Great Britain is parting families.— Jimmy Kershaw
Do you agree with the financial threshold imposed by the UK government on family life?
There is none - except for propaganda.
The government claims that these harsh rules on family migration were introduced to stop immigrants from having access to state welfare. Into this category they lump in access to job seekers benefits, as well as access to the National Health Service. However, under no circumstances can someone on a spouse visa claim benefits. Similarly, if they want access to the NHS, they will have to pay a yearly health care fee of over £200.
It is not until you have been granted citizenship for five years (after five to ten years of residency, a test and a shed-load more money) that you can access the benefits of state welfare. In fact, the UK government are very clear on this: it is clearly laid out for you in every document you receive and in your passport that as a partner to a British citizen you: HAVE NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS.
Yet, confusingly, the government likes to simultaneously reinforce and deny this fact. When asked to justify their actions regarding the family migration law of 2012, they merely repeat that it is to stop people from claiming benefits. In fact, the Home Office has become akin to robots when questioned, using the same wording each time:
"We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution. But family life must not be established here at the taxpayer's expense."
This is not a reason. It is not even a half truth. It is a lie. It is a lie to deceive the British population. A lie which repeated enough they hope will become truth. The most classic technique used by any propagandist.
For those currently affected by the harsh requirements of the UK's rules on family migration, there is no known end in sight. The best hope is for the EU Supreme Court's appeal case, due to take place some time early 2016. However, in July 2014 the Court of Appeal won against a similar appeal. It was decided that the Secretary of State’s rules, "though discriminatory in their effect, had a legitimate objective and were for this reason not unlawful".
Whilst the UK government is under Conservative rule, there is no certainty that this discriminatory law will ever be overturned. Families will continue to be divided.