“As British citizens we have fewer rights in Britain than our EU friends and even their non-EU partners.”
Yana is a British citizen and lives in Edinburgh with her British husband and British children.
Yana has a wide and varied circle of international friends - Patrick from Ireland married to Jing from China, Andy a Scot married to Katarina from Poland, José from Spain married to Lisa from Argentina, and Mike from Netherlands married to Olga from Russia. Then there are Yana and John, both Brits. Indeed, Yana recognises, through her friends circle, that what makes Britain great is how multicultural we are. This is what makes our country rich.
They come in all different shapes and sizes; José prefers coffee to tea and Jing goes for rice over potatoes. But when this group meets up, they have a good time together, comparing stories about families and experiences from around the world. Yana is reminded how small the world is and how we all share the same common wishes and experiences: the desire to give our children the best possible start in life, the longing to be together as a family and the heartache from being apart from your loved ones.
There’s not much to tell Yana apart from her friends –until it comes to UK’s immigration rules. This is where Yana and John, both as British citizens are the odd ones out and therefore disadvantaged.
Yana’s mum is a Russian citizen, living in Russia on her own since Yana’s dad died in a car crash two and a half years ago. Yana has no other siblings to help look after her mum.
After many years of waiting, in 2012, Yana and John were fortunate to be blessed with twin girls. Yana’s ’s mum retired from her job to come to the UK for six months on a visitor visa to help with the babies. Following the difficult years after Yana’s dad’s tragic and unexpected death, it was good to see her mum happy again and engaging with her granddaughters.
Yana is therefore keen to have her mum live with them, with no burden on the State.
Under the previous immigration rules this would have been possible and they were planning to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain; however, following the introduction of the new immigration rules in July this year, Yana is in total despair as the route has effectively been completely closed off.
The situation is causing severe distress; instead of enjoying motherhood Yana spends most of her day desperately trying to find a solution.
|John, Yana, her mum and the twins.|
The new rules have set the proof of dependency so high that it is actually impossible to foresee any circumstances whereby a visa would be granted to a parent of a British citizen. Should the sponsor earn a reasonable salary, it’s deemed they can afford to pay for care in the parent’s home country; if the sponsor doesn’t earn a reasonable salary, they can’t prove they can support their parent without recourse to public funds. So with money or without it, elderly parents are blocked from the country.
As these rules apply only to UK citizens, within Yana’s circle of friends they are the only ones affected, because both her and husband are British.
Even a non-EU citizen living in the UK with their EEA or Swiss spouse or civil partner can bring their family members (children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and cousins) into the UK so long as their EU partner can show a family member is dependent on them. So, for example, a Russian citizen married to a citizen of France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, etc. can bring their Russian mother to live permanently with them in the UK, but Yana and John, as British citizens, are denied that same right, in their own country.
To Yana, the situation in Britain today is terribly reminiscent of the past; in the 1930s her great grandfather’s family were forced off their land, had their property and belongings confiscated by the Bolsheviks, and were exiled to the north of Russia because they were a little bit richer than everybody else in their village.
In 21st-century Britain, Yana is being penalised because she has a mother who is not British, and thus deprived of the right to live comfortably with her family in the country of which she herself is a citizen. Why? Since coming to this country Yana has studied, at her own expense, volunteered with several charities, worked hard and paid taxes; she has never claimed benefits.
So, what has she done to deserve this?
As parents, Yana and John want to stay in their own country and raise their kids to be British, but if they do this, then they are being told by the current government that they must abandon Yana’s mother and that she has to be vegetating before her entry to the UK can even be considered (and even then it would be rejected under the current rules).
It feels very unfair that families in UK are being forced to make such choices, just because they’re British.
Update: Yana and John, their twins and Yana’s mum moved to Ireland, exercising their EU treaty rights to live together as a family. About a year later the family relocated to the UK, extending their use of treaty rights under what is now known as the ‘Surinder Singh route”. The family is grateful to the EU for affording them the respect they deserve as a family, which was taken away by the UK government.