"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, 3 September 2013

Colin

'My wife and I were brought together by her interest in genealogy
, particularly her ancestry in North Wales. We were originally introduced over a decade ago, by a mutual friend from her home-town of Seattle, who I met when I was working in a Bala coaching inn that had belonged to my wife's family in the 19th century, and in which her great grandfather had been born and raised before leaving for the US. This mutual friend mentioned her pal back in Seattle, and her links to Bala, and thought she would like a pen-pal in the town.

'And for several years we were merely pen-pals, and later Facebook friends; but as time went on we became confidantes, and our friendship became increasingly affectionate. When she finally traveled to Bala, theoretically to research more of her family history, we both felt there was a possibility of something more; and after a decade of letters, e-mails, phone-calls and online chats, those feelings were proved right the moment we set eyes on each other.

'She stayed for six weeks that first visit, and made some great breakthroughs in her family history - but that's another story for another time. What is important here is that by the time she left we were in no doubt that we were meant to be together. After three thoroughly miserable months apart she returned to Wales that Christmas, when we got engaged and resolved to get together "for keeps" as soon as we could. After some research we discovered that it would be much quicker for us to marry in the US than the UK. Though by no means an easy option - it was expensive and exhausting navigating the US Immigration Service - the route via the UK Border Agency was even worse, so tortuous and bureaucratic (a taste of things to come) that the choice to marry in the US was, in the end, an easy one to make. We tied the knot in 2011, and our son was born that Christmas.


'Our plan was to stay in the US until our son reached school age. We both feel it is important that he grows up a Welsh speaker; and we have come to realise just how badly we miss the support of my large and close-knit family in Bala and Llanuwchllyn, and the sense of community there - something that is lacking in the US. This not merely a preference - we feel it is a necessity for the well-being of our son. And at the most fundamental level, we desperately want him to get to know the grandma that so far he has never even met.

'That grandma, my mother, celebrated her 80th birthday this year, an event that we attended virtually via Skype, and that left me with an urgent sense that the move home should come sooner rather than later. I started contacting friends in and around Bala with a view to setting up a job, and several family members stepped forward with offers to sponsor my wife if we couldn't find work before we moved back.

'It was only then, when I was innocently looking into the income requirements third party sponsorship that I discovered to my shock that third party sponsorships were no longer accepted by the UKBA.

'And that was just first of many shocks that lay in store for me as I researched the 2012 family migration laws, laws that seemed to have been passed when I wasn't looking. The income requirement of £18,600 was the next blow to our hopes, but even as that was sinking in came the discovery that even if I were able to find such an income (in Bala!) I would, under these new rules, be required to work for six months before I could even apply for my wife to join me (add another six months for the application process). This legal requirement – that a 2 year-old boy be separated from his mother or father for a year or more, seems completely unjustifiable to me, not to mention utterly, utterly heartless.

'So I am left with a stark choice - my 80 year-old mother or my 2 year-old son. That is not me being dramatic. That is literally the situation I find myself in. And as a British citizen, put in this position by the British government, I find myself alternating between despair and fury. These feelings are intensified when I compare my situation with that of my younger brother, who in 2011, married a Polish woman, and in 2012 became the proud father of twin girls.

'He, his wife and their daughters now live in Bala under the EU’s freedom of movement laws. No visas required, no minimum income or savings needed, no forced separation demanded. In the past 12 months his wife’s brother and sister-in-law have also migrated from Poland to live and work in Bala. I would like to stress in no uncertain terms that I do not object to their freedom to move there – but as a British Citizen who cannot even bring his wife to the UK, the knowledge that EU nationals can come and go at will, and seem to have more right to a family life in the UK than I do, is a very bitter pill to swallow indeed.

'Everything about these laws seems wrong, seems designed purely to reduce numbers to approximate an arbitrary election promise, and damn the consequences to the families they are destroying. And some of them seem positively spiteful. The barring of third-party sponsors is particularly infuriating - in my case at least, I'm not talking about some elaborate scam or shady employer here; I'm talking about my own brother who wants (and can easily afford) to help out a sibling, but isn't allowed to, because to the UKBA it now seems discretion and plain bloody common sense are against the rules.

'In our more fanciful moments, my wife and I have talked about writing our story as an epic tale of emigration, spanning a century (her great grandfather left Bala in 1907), an ocean and a continent, and coming full circle with the original emigrant's great-great-grandson returning to and settling in the town he left 100 years earlier. In recent months we've found ourselves talking about it even more. We find it helps, in the face of the indifference, arrogance and hypocrisy of the Home Secretary, to cling to our dreams of romance, love and destiny, in the hope that they will eventually triumph. Sometimes it feels like they're all we have left.'



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