“I am desperate to return home to spend time with my parents in their final years, as they are both fighting cancer. However I can’t leave my wife.”
Sean is a British citizen who for the past 10 years has worked in South East Asia. His wife is from Thailand and together, they have a three year old son, also British. Sean’s parents, also British, live in the UK. Unfortunately, they are both battling cancer and Sean is keen to spend time with his parents in their last few years and ensure his son gets to spend that incredibly precious time with the grandparents that for many of us, has been invaluable in our own lives.
However, because of this government, Sean and his son are now facing the prospect of never being able to return here - to their home, their family and the lives they are entitled to.
Sean’s parents are devastated at the prospect of never seeing Sean or their beloved grandson again. They are depressed, habitually in tears and at a time when cancer is attacking them, so is this government.
Sean is horrified that his little boy will never experience a family Christmas or the warmth and love of his grandparents.
This government has deemed that in order for Sean, as a British citizen to return to the UK he must abandon his wife because he just doesn’t make an arbitrary amount of £18,600 in the developing country he is living in – an amount he doesn’t need there.
This government has deemed that for Sean’s son to be able to live in his home and get to know his grandparents, he must either live with his mum in Asia or his dad in the UK.
This government is encouraging the breakup of a marriage and family, forcing British citizens into exile, and forcing elderly British citizens in a time of need, to battle debilitating diseases alone.
What’s even more unbelievable is that these new rules only affect British citizens with non-EU spouses. Other EU citizens have the freedom to live in Sean’s home country with their non-EU spouses but because Sean is British he has extra hurdles to jump over.
We have no answer for Sean when he asked us to explain to him why he, as British citizen, and his son, also a British citizen, are forced to live in exile. The rights of Sean’s non-European spouse are not the issue here. The issue is around the rights we afford British citizens and families, and the heartbreak this government deems it justified to wreak on our own.
When did we become a society where an elderly British couple battling cancer are forced to do it without their British son to support them? Perhaps the government can tell us why.
On 1st September 2013, a British family was divided. A British father and his three year old British son were forced to go and live in exile so the father could work in Spain. They have never been there before and don’t speak the language.
From the perspective of each family member affected, on how they feel about the immigration rules and the route they are forced to take:
Father and husband:
“I desperately want to stay in the UK, work and help look after my ageing parents. They are in their seventies and both have been fighting cancer. My father had a fall this week and mother is in severe pain with her back. I worry so much and I can’t bear to leave them. I can’t help thinking I may never see them again.
My little boy has brought them so much pleasure over the last months and he in turn has learned so much from them. He loves them so much it will be a terrible thing to take him away from them. There will be real heartache and lots of tears when we leave. I really do not want to go, but if we stay my son will lose his mother. What choice do I have?
I have chosen Spain as I think it might be the best place for me to find work as an English teacher. I am scared though. How will we cope? What about language and culture problems? How will my son get on? If I we can’t survive there what will we do? I can’t work in my wife’s country and she will not even be able to enter mine. We will be in limbo. We will have to split up. My son will have a broken family.”
“We are coming to the end of our years and all we want is our family around us. Having our son and grandson around is the best medicine we could possible get. But now we have to say goodbye to them at the airport. We don’t know when we will see them again. This is tragic.
We don’t understand why after all these years as hard working, law abiding British citizens we are faced with this situation. What makes us really angry and ashamed to be British is that any other European citizens can just walk into England and live and work just like that. An unmarried Polish/Thai couple with no children can just move here without restriction, yet our British grandson is expected to live without his mother.”
Wife and mother:
“This is all my fault. I feel so bad for breaking up my husband’s family. My parents in law need their son and grandson. I said maybe I should just leave and go home. I couldn’t though. How can any mother be expected to leave her child. I would be quite happy to go back to my rice farming village in Thailand, but it is not a good place for my child and my husband cannot work in my country. I only want what is best for them. I don’t really matter in all of this.
I thought western countries were very civilised. I don’t really understand why this is happening. I am sure no other country would allow a mother to be taken from her child or expect a father and child to live in another country.”
Three year old boy:
“I want to be with nanny and grampy. I don’t want to see anyone cry. I don’t want my daddy to be so anxious and sad. I don’t want to lose my mummy. I want to go to school and learn. I want everyone to be happy.”