"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 28 February 2017

Personal musings on the MM judgment

The Court of Appeal took what seemed at the time an absurdly long four months to hand down a judgment that caused more anguish to more people than any other I am aware of.  The judges unanimously ruled in the government's favour, despite accepting:

“Admittedly there is a total ban on the entry of non-EEA partners where UK partner cannot reach the required minimum…appreciate that this ban could be life-long.” [147]

The judges admitted the rules lead to British citizens possibly never being able to have their husband or wife in the UK - thus condemning a national of this country to permanent exile, a life apart from their spouse and/or a single-parent upbringing.  Yes you have the right to marry whoever you choose, but not to live with them in your country of nationality.  Like allowing people to buy CD players while keeping the price of CDs unaffordable for the majority of population. (Better analogies welcome!) Yet they judges ruled breaching such a basic right is lawful.

Like others, I consoled myself.  Court of Appeal is known to be more conservative.  I was told it sometimes make extreme judgments to ensure a case finds its way to the Supreme Court.  Then nearly two years on, February 2016 saw arguments being made in front of a panel of seven judges in the highest court in the land: 

  • Best interest of children not dealt with as a primary consideration
  • MIR unreasonably high (three times subsistence level)
  • MIR based on irrational - or at least weak - considerations of reducing burden on taxpayer and promoting integration
  • Parliament cannot have intended to disentitle half the working population from marrying a foreign spouse  
      Fast forward to February 2017, and on the one year anniversary of its hearing, the  Supreme Court handed down its judgment.  If only the wait was worth it. 

I find the judgment bereft of even a basic understanding of what these rules are doing to families. Okay, I'm not a judge or a lawyer.  I don't even have a law degree.  Maybe that's why I am left bemused, but also why I feel freer to voice my dismay and confusion.  Taking a year to hand down a judgment - this judgment - in a case which has been with the courts since 2013 and known to affect thousands British citizens is unacceptable.  

Yes, the judges apologised for the delay - there were other cases with similar issues they said.  I disagree. Unlike the other cases, evidence was presented that here we have British citizens whose relationship was not formed when immigration statuses of their partners was precarious.  The spouses do not have a criminal record.  There is no question mark over the genuineness of the relationships or how subsisting they are - save for the UK government intent on dividing families.  Even in BritCits' own membership, we have couples who keep Skype on on one screen, and together press the play button for Netflix on another, so that even across different continents they can maintain a semblance of normality.  This is echoed across families all over, a generation of kids growing up with Skype mummies and daddies. 

Much of the evidence put forward by the MM lawyers is just not addressed. There are arithmetic errors in the judgment.  It is devoid of any understanding of the hardship caused to families in expecting tribunals to rectify ridiculous Home Office refusals - the ever increasing waiting times for hearings, the expense of legal and court filing fees, the stress while the years pass by, all ignored. 

This is by no means an invitation to imitate the Daily Mail and attack the judges.  I have no doubt they simply did what they are legally obliged to.  I think they could have done more, and better.  But I am hardly unbiased. 

The problem is really with our political system where those who are elected and paid to represent us do so little.  Nadhim Zahawi spoke out against the Trump ban only when he realised it affected him.  He said as much on the Marr show.  Representatives should not have to personally experience an injustice before they speak out against it.  The opposition took the judgment lying down too.  Politicians for the most part just do not get it.

But I digress.  The Supreme Court judgment is not what I expected nor what families deserve.  However it's not all doom and gloom.  My next post on this topic will be a detailed overview of the judgment and more positive.  Well, a tad at least.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Media requests following MM case judgment

We have had a lot of media requests for contact details of affected families.  The inundation combined with the scarce resources - time and manpower - BritCits has, means we are no longer able to individually seek out families, especially at this time when things with the MM case are a little crazy.

What we will do is collate media requests here and share it so families who are or have been affected by UK's family immigration rules can contact journalists directly if they are interested and meet any specified criteria.  

I urge families to take up the chance to voice their views - it is an opportunity to educate our fellow citizens on how restrictive and damaging these rules are and what the government has been doing. It may also pressure them to implement changes which are better for families!

The Independent is looking for any family affected by UK's immigration rules.  

STV News is looking for Scottish families.  
Email: claire.diamond@stv.tv 

BBC Two is looking for any family fallen victim to UK's immigration rules. Some coverage already on the Victoria Derbyshire Show. 
Email: divya.talwar@bbc.co.uk

BBC Wales News want to hear from Welsh speakers.
Email: Luned.Phillips@bbc.co.uk  Ph: 02920 322514

BBC Gloucestershire want to speak to local families. 
Pippa's Ph: 01452 307093 

BBC Three Counties Radio want to speak to families from Bedfordshire, Hetfordshire or Buckinghamshire.
Email: Akeem.Nicol@bbc.co.uk   Ph: (01582) 636 963

BBC Newsround - keen to hear about impact of absence from a parent from a child's perspective.  Chatty child between the ages of 9 and 12, who has used Skype to maintain ties with absent parent.
Email: Tasha.Crawford@bbc.co.uk

Masters student in Television Journalism at Goldsmiths University.  (Documentary request).
Email: rjanilesh@gmail.com

BA student in Journalism at University of Kent. Name: Ariane
Email: as2082@kent.ac.uk

Requirements fulfilled:

Press Association is keen to speak with anyone affected by these rules.

Nine Lives Media - BAFTA and International Emmy winning TV production company based in Manchester. (Documentary request).

MM case Joint Press Release - MRN and BritCits

Joint Statement of BritCits and Migrants' Rights Network

                                  WINNING THE RIGHT TO LIVE WITH YOUR FAMILY

BritCits and the Migrants’ Rights Network, today welcomed the decision to take the children’s best interest for family migration, but were disappointed that the minimum income requirement (MIR) remains.

For over four years, in some cases longer, families have waited for this final judgment, and today the Supreme Court ruled that the best interest of children needs to be taken into account, and alternative sources of funding must be considered alongside the MIR.

However, there will still be couples with and without children who will not be able to meet the MIR, and will today need to begin to make difficult decisions on their future. The MIR, currently set at £18,600, will continue to discriminate and negatively impact couples, and certain groups, such as refugees. At present, there are estimated to be over 41% of the working population who would not be able to meet this threshold.

Fizza Qureshi, Director of the Migrants' Rights Network said, “Today, families have won a great victory- they can finally be reunited. It is also welcome to see that alternative sources of funding should be considered alongside the minimum income threshold. However, for those without children, and those without alternative sources, today they will have to begin to make difficult decisions on their futures. And we will need to continue to pressure the Government to implement these changes ”

Sonel Mehta, Founder of BritCits said “It is disappointing that the Supreme Court acknowledges 301 out of 422 listed occupations earn on average less than the MIR, and often these are ’providing essential public services’ yet go on to uphold a MIR which is c50% higher than what a full-time worker earning the minimum wage could earn. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The appalling way this government has treated kids has not been lost on the Court, and alternative means of funding also now need to be taken into account. What this means for families though will be clearer only when we see how the government implements the required changes as they seem to have been afforded quite a bit of leeway on how they will do so.”

1. The family migration income threshold: Pricing UK workers out of a family life. http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/files/publications/MRN_Family-Migration_Briefing-June_2014.pdf
2. BritCits is a human rights charity founded as a result of divisive family immigration rules which are leading to the break-up of families of British citizens and residents with non-EEA family members, whilst also forcing British citizens into exile.
3. The Migrants' Rights Network is a charity advocating for the rights of all migrants in the UK. MRN works with a range of stakeholders including migrant and refugee community organisations across the country.