|photographer: Mark Stokes|
Sadly, more often than not, those paying the highest price for simply wanting to live in the UK are British citizens, mis-treated by the political elite, who in the pursuit of a net migration target (its ridiculousness evident to all who understand the components of it) are all too willing to sacrifice the very people they are employed to represent.
The number of attendees were not as high as in previous years because of transport issues, yet the day - meeting, demo and 'after-party' - were no less fabulous than previous years, for many reasons.
1. The panel at the meeting in parliament consisted of:
Baroness Sally Hamwee - a long-time supported in the campaign against these immigration rules.
Gethin Jones - husband and father, separated from his Russian wife and one British child.
David Hanson MP - Shadow Immigration Minister (but possibly not come September!)
Natalie Bennett - Leader of the Green Party
Stuart McDonald MP - Member of the Scottish National Party
Anne Longfied - Children's Commissioner for England
Ryan Shorthouse - representative of the Conservative thinktank, Bright Blue
And from the back, Colin Yeo - barrister and freemovement.org.uk founder
View of each of these speakers varied, but they were unanimous in agreeing that the rules are not fit for purpose. (I'll update this page with a bit on what each said when I have more energy and time!)
2. It saw the coming together of all those who are apart from loved ones, instilling confidence in the knowledge no one is alone in this battle. It also provided an opportunity to meet people, many of whom till now have simply been faces behind a profile photo - time for lots of hugs and laughter.
3. As time goes by, more families will find themselves affected by the rules. However, more are also finding a solution, and this 9th July was a demonstration in humanity outliving our own selfish purposes with a very high percentage of attendees now united with their family in the UK - under domestic rules or EEA regulations (Surinder Singh) - yet showing up to encourage those still divided.
|Wayne proudly displays his cap, an ode to the man who paved the way for family reunification - photographer: Sonel|
There were so many messages of love triumphing, of the benefits of free movement rights, of encouragement that however hard the battle, the prize of family reunification was well worth it. Yes, there were tears of pent up grief at the emotional rollercoaster resulting from the rules and their application; stress from moving countries multiple times; sadness for events that could only be shared on Skype; lamenting at missed firsts of babies; but also,joy and an overpowering sense of relief at being able to defeat the Home Office in a battle reminiscent of David versus Goliath.
|Roz gets emotional recalling her journey to family reunification in the UK, with Ivy in tow - photographer:Sonel|
I was especially inspired by the strength of the divided and hope from the united; the almost passing of the baton, as if saying 'now it's your turn to be with your family'.
4. The chance it afforded so many to voice how the rules have impacted (message to Gove: I am no longer a civil servant) them, a therapeutic activity with an audience who really does understand. There was an en masse gasp of incredulity at being told of an Indonesian's mum refusal letter suggesting her presence in the UK to be with her British baby was not necessary because breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice! Beggars belief, unless you know that Home Office has provided reasons such as those below as well: (source for both is freemovement.org.uk)
- "It is considered that a significant number of children are brought up satisfactorily by one parent alone with little or no contact with their other parent."
- "At two and three years old respectively, it is considered that x and y are of an age where they would be able to readjust to life without you."
|Chloe and Charlie - all too aware of the government's attempts to divide families - photographer:Sonel|
|An extract from the Tory election manifesto - photographer:Sonel|
|Dani with her placard, pointin out the obvious hypocrisy underlying Cameron's statement - photographer:Sonel|
6. The weather was perfect, with industrial action thrusting the glorious London skyline on those who ordinarily lose themselves in the coloured tunnels that is the London Underground. The gathering at a nearby pub, the Red Lion, saw drinks being shared, many a conversation take place - not all immigration related - and even displays of card and coin magic tricks.
What never ceases to amaze me is the 'but I'm British' sentiment echoed repeatedly, and that's what we need to give the loudest voice to, as even those most opposed to immigration tend to support policies allowing Brits to live in the UK with immediate family. How can they not if all the commotion around wanting to replicate Australia's immigration policy is genuine? Australia has no income requirement for sponsorhsip of spouses/partners and encourage sponsorship of parents of its adult citizens whilst they are younger, healthier and thus better able to integrate.
UK's immigration rules particularly discriminate against British citizens whose passports are somewhat hypocritically printed with a request and requirement for other nations, 'in the Name of Her Majesty all those it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary'. A request and requirement for other nations to do for British citizens what the British government chooses not to do itself.
For tweets of the events, look up #DividedFamilies