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Divided families

Divided families

Last week saw the anniversary of the miserable new family immigration rules, introduced on 9 July 2012. Heartache and anguish was predicted and has, tragically, come to pass. I attended and spoke at the demonstration outside the Home Office co-ordinated by JCWI, MRN, Brit Cits and others.

It was, frankly, distressing to be surrounded by so many fragmented, broken half families so bitterly angry at the violence done to them by Theresa May and her rules. I lost count of the apparently single mothers around the crowd, accompanied by babies, toddlers and a few children old enough to be consciously aware and articulate about what it was like to be separated from one’s father. Bailey Yamamoto spoke. At eight months pregnant she faces giving birth alone, and her husband will never be able to recover the lost opportunity to be with his new born baby.

The Home Office would reply that the British families can be together with their loved ones if they go into exile abroad, and that Bailey could go and give birth outside her home country if she chooses (with citizenship implications for her child if she does so). The rules need to be tough because the British public demands it, and these bereft individuals are merely collateral damage.

Well, it sickens me. The British public are ill informed, their perceptions far removed from reality because of the distorted poison peddled by politicians and the media. The minimum income threshold has been set at an outrageously high level, preventing an unskilled worker on the minimum wage from ever being able to live in his or her home country with a foreign spouse no matter how many hours he or she slaves away. The documentary requirements are Byzantine, requiring not only 12 months of bank statements (surely this tells anyone enough?) but so many other bizarre pieces of evidence that it is virtually impossible to satisfy the rules.

There are some interesting grassroots groups springing up to campaign on these issues. The best known and most effective seems to be BritCits, co-ordinated by the tireless Steven Green. There are Facebook groups galore:

— steven green (@sjplep) July 12, 2013
The local press regularly run stories on the unfairness of the family rules. The Daily Mail has even been known to run positive stories, as has The Spectator (I’ve not seen one yet in either publication featuring someone from an ethnic minority, mind). Politicians seem to be swayed by money and power. There are no doubt plenty of anti immigration votes to be garnered, but if there are enough dissenting voices and enough people start to realise the awful effects of these rules on their friends, families and communities then that creates its own electoral issues for the Coalition. Keep at it!

Colin Yeo
Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder and editor of the Free Movement immigration law website.

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