"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Tuesday 2 July 2013


Mumsnet: government policy is dividing families


By Chris Mead, friend and colleague of our sister campaign, the Family Immigration Alliance -

We work shoulder-to-shoulder with the FIA. In my case, the FIA's mention in the Economist article 'Sons and lovers' ( http://www.economist.com/node/21556926 ), which was published around the time of the introduction of harsh new family division rules ( http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/introduction.html ) - led directly to me seeking Chris out and from then those early, key connections which brought me into the campaign.

In a recent change to immigration law, a British citizen must earn above a certain threshold before their foreign partner is allowed to live in the UK.

In this guest blog, Chris Mead of the Family Immigration Alliance explains why the organization is fighting to change the law.

"On the 9th July families with foreign spouses will be marking 'Divided Families Day'.

A year ago, the government introduced new requirements on British 'sponsors' (that is, the British resident in a relationship) to earn at least £18600 to have their foreign spouse join them in the UK. This increases by £22400 if the couple has a child, and another £2400 for each child after that.

To put this into context, 40% of the UK population earn less than £18600. And to make matters worse, neither the couple's parents, nor the foreign spouse, are allowed to contribute towards meeting this amount. The burden is entirely on the British sponsor.

Recently a group of MPs released a report on this issue, exposing the full severity of the rules. Evidence they received from Coram Children's Legal Advice Centre told of a mother, separated from 'her husband and two sons, aged just five months and 18 months, all British citizens. The separation means that the mother has had to stop breastfeeding her five-month-old baby.' There is growing evidence that this sort of separation is having a significant impact on the development of children.

Carol, a British citizen from Southampton is married to Ahmed, from Iran. They met at university and have a daughter. But Ahmed's application to stay in the UK was refused because Carol didn't earn enough to meet the threshold. She was 3 months pregnant when Ahmed had to return to Iran. Carol works for a law firm, but still does not earn enough to sponsor Ahmed's application. Their daughter is almost 1 now, and has still never seen her father.

Ahmed is also working and Carol's parents have even offered to contribute money to sponsor the application. The rules do not allow this though, leaving the burden solely on Carol to prove she can earn enough by herself, to have Ahmed live with her. Her story features in a video explaining the injustice of the new rules.

Research from Oxford University suggests that 47% of the working adult population of the UK would not be able to meet these requirements if they needed to. Worse still, the rules threaten to cost the tax payer more, by preventing foreign spouses from supporting their families - pushing some sponsors onto welfare benefits.

Emma's husband is Indonesian. She is a professional graphic designer with over 15 years of work experience. 'Due to childcare commitments, I couldn't secure full time work, and I couldn't afford child care costs even if I did find a full time position.

I have been on Income Support, and now going onto Job Seekers Allowance - [it's] so ironic, because if my husband was allowed to be in this country, our child care problems would cease to exist, and we could both have the shared time to work and care for our family without having to claim any benefit from the state.'

Because of the illogical rules for assessing whether sponsors can meet this income threshold, thousands of British families are being indefinitely separated. Could you face forced separation from your spouse or children because of rules like this?

If not, please do think about acting right now to help families like Carol's and Emma's. A coalition of groups called the Divided Families Campaign is holding a Day of Action on the 9th July to call on Theresa May to end the suffering her rules have caused.

* The Migrants Rights Network will be presenting its petition to 10 Downing Street. Add your name to the list of signatories calling on Theresa May to overturn these rules.

* Better still, let your MP know about the impact of the rules and invite them to attend Divided Families Day in parliament. (Sample letter : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/lobby-your-mp-sample-letter-below.html )

* Or, if you're nearby, why not join us outside the Home Office on the 9th July, at 4pm.

If you'd like to read more about the impact these rules are having on families, take a look at BritCits, Family Immigration Alliance, JCWI and MRN."

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