“Shame on you Theresa May”: Ethnography of the UKBA
3318640502 Key to terms APPG ILR JCWI MRN UKBA UFFL Key Words family migration, human rights violations, UKBA, discrimination, structural violence, bureaucracy, state policies Abstract The purpose of this project is to highlight the draconian immigration policies implemented on the 9th July 2012 by the current UK government. Due to the relatively short time since the family migration policies came into effect there is little anthropological research surrounding this topic, however, this paper contributes to the wider body of academia concerned with migration. By engaging with grassroots movements and established organizations dedicated to supporting migrants, I have become a part of a wider community which is working towards the reform of these migration policies. Specifically I explore how these policies are in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During my research many individuals expressed feelings of marginalization. As I will illustrate, these policies discriminate against people based on 2 All Party Parliamentary Group Indefinite Leave to Remain Joint Coalition for the Welfare of Immigrants Migrants’ Rights Network United Kingdom Border Agency United Families Fight for Love
3318640502 their class, gender, race, sexuality, age and region. Ethnographic accounts are integral to this report as they demonstrate the suffering experienced by individuals across the UK and globally who have been separated from their families by these migration policies. Introduction On 9th July 2012, the Conservative Government of the UK made four changes to family migration policy. These measures were an attempt to meet the goals set by the present government to restrict migration. In the words of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, the goal of the current administration is to “limit migration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.” The administration refers to its approach to immigration as “soft touch”; a review of the history of migration and the current policies suggests the term “soft touch” is far from the truth. Britain has a long history of anxiety towards migration and migrants, fueled by fear of abuse of the country’s resources and xenophobic attitudes among some groups within society. The concern in some quarters, that certain groups are incapable of integrating into British society is arguably exacerbated by immigration law and media representations. Using family migration as a prism through which to view the global movement of peoples, this essay highlights the state’s attempt to restrict the freedom of movement. This issue has risen in importance over time, as the falling cost of travel, and the virtual connections offered by the internet, has meant we inhabit a world that is continuously interconnected. In this paper, personal accounts of lives affected by migration policy are described, as a counterpoint to the usual polemic, which are often based on economic arguments. Methodology The aim of this research was to critically analyze the stipulations applied to couples that marry across borders. At present, within the UK, couples are required to conform to the state’s definition of what constitutes a marriage. However after the changes in family migration came into effect on 9 th July 2012, my focus was shifted. Originally my attention was drawn solely to the income requirements but after a discussion with two fellow campaigners, I decided to highlight all four changes to family 3
3318640502 migration in the hope that this would bring about solidarity for the cause. As a result I have used this text to start a discourse on all elements of family migration affected by the 9th of July changes. The individuals I met by attending conferences, going to local meetings and communicating through social media support groups became my informants. These people greatly contributed to my understanding of both the cause and effect of these changes. There is little anthropological knowledge surrounding this topic due to its relatively recent emergence, therefore, I have attempted to pave a path of ethnographic accounts that provide an emic perspective of this issue. By engaging with the policies of family migration I found myself immersed in the campaign for their reform. Consequently this piece is written from the ‘natives’ perspective (Lughod 1991). My engagement with campaigns to challenge the 9th July policy changes was repeatedly inspired by engagement with families living with the consequences of these policies. The ethnographic accounts within this paper were collected over a ten month period between July 2012 and April 2013. Some names have been changed in order to avoid further complications between those seeking family visas and the UK Border Agency (UKBA). The appropriate interview method was reviewed and refined as the project proceeded. The initial conclusion was that it may be most appropriate to be a neutral recorder of the individuals’ stories, to avoid leading the conversation into a specific direction; however, in this highly charged and emotional area, it soon became clear that it was more productive to adopt an anthropological approach that was focused on connections rather than disconnections. As the academic research was conducted alongside and within activist campaigns, often I had information that would assist the informant with their struggle with the state; I felt this was a valid approach as this topic concerns human interaction and political engagement. There is an argument within anthropology that this type of approach can distort the information collected through interviews, however Levi-Strauss (1966 ) suggests that by simply studying a subject you alter the issue.
3318640502 The stories are from individuals that I came into contact with by attending and observing campaign meetings. These are not necessarily a representative sample, as there are many others suffering due to separation from their families, all with a highly individual story, thus this ethnography is a partial truth (Clifford 1986:6). As both an observer and participant in the campaign against the restrictive policies of family migration I have written an auto-ethnography which Khosravi (2010:5) describes as ethnography that blurs the line between informants and the anthropologist. Khosravi (2010) takes a narrative approach to migration, which was the format followed within this ethnography as it allows the reader to engage with real stories of those affected by these policies. Intention and aims The academic task was to produce an anthropological exploration of a topic of choice; it is therefore necessary to discuss what is meant by anthropology. Anthropology has a long history and has been practiced in various ways, this essay takes a strong stance that anthropology has little significance unless it engages in activism. This takes the lead from Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1995) who believes that militant anthropology is the way to move away from the objective study of others and to engage with political activism. An analysis of the implications of Scheper-Hughes (2000) work could suggest that anthropology resembles journalism, as opposed to writing after the issue has concluded. Writing from the past does little to affect the outcome of the matter at hand, in this case the state and its policies regarding family migration. This text critically examines state policies, which Nader (1972) describes as studying up. Following the work of De Genova (2013), this essay questions the necessity of national borders, with their literal and legal impact on freedom of movement. This is essential to this discussion as without borders there would be no category of ‘the migrant’ and consequently no families separated due to restrictions on family migration. This ethnography of activism highlights the issues that punish those families with the least financial security. Alongside pointing out the various types of discrimination the 5
3318640502 government has embodied within these new policies, I explore alternate ways to manage our developing world, with a particular focus on the freedom of movement. Within this text I focus on the micro issues that are arising out of family migration policies, while acknowledging the macro as these changes are part of a bigger picture surrounding border control. Outline of family immigration changes Before examining the lives of those affected by changes to family migration policies, I will provide a brief outline of each of the policy changes, and also provide a wider context in which to view the current migratory atmosphere within the UK. Policy 1: Proof of income. Since 9 th July 2012, any British Citizen or settled person wanting to sponsor their non-EEA spouse to migrate to the UK must prove they have an annual income of £18,600 (UKBA 2013). This is a more than three times the prior figure of £5,500 plus housing costs (Economist 2013). According to the Migratory Observatory at the University of Oxford, 47% of British Citizens in employment will not qualify to bring in a family member under these new rules. Although this text focuses on those that are excluded because of the new policies, it is important to note that many families also failed to meet the earlier, less onerous conditions. On top of the need for proof of an annual income of £18,600 figure any UK citizen/settled person who needs to sponsor their child to live in the UK, alongside their spouse, must prove an income of £22,400 and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent dependent. The new income stipulations must be supported by documented evidence for a period of 6 months before the application can be submitted (UKBA 2013). Further complications arise when selfemployment is considered, which will be discussed later in the paper. For those that fall short of this income hurdle they have to provide evidence that they can meet the shortfall with funds in a savings account, calculated as the shortfall multiplied by 2.5. Taking Bob as an example; he has an income of £18,300 per annum, a shortfall of £300. The law stipulates that if short of the income requirement, you must demonstrate a minimum of £16,000 in savings plus 2.5x the amount you were short of the income requirement, For 6
3318640502 Bob this means £16,000+ £750 in savings, if Bob was unemployed the figure would be £62,500. Policy 2: Proof of English. The spouse of the UK citizen/settled individual must prove their competency in English (UKBA 2013). Although this change doesn't come into effect until October 2013 it is likely to act as a barrier to entry to the UK for many. Until October 2013 the necessary English language level was A1, which is the level of breakthrough or beginner, whereas post October it will shift to B1 which is the level of threshold of intermediate (Council of Europe 2013). The UK now joins Germany, Estonia and Denmark in requiring B1 language levels (Guardian 2013). This statement by the UKBA expresses the government’s reasoning for the increased income and English language requirements; “To play a full part in British life, family migrants must be able to integrate, that means they must speak our language and pay their way (Guardian 2013).” Those planning to learn English subsequent to entering the UK are finding this route has closed and those seeking to join their spouse must pass the test in their country of origin (UKBA 2013). This is extremely problematic as the chances of learning a second language is much higher if you are immersed in the language, i.e. living in a country where it is the main language spoken. As Guy Taylor explains: “Raising the level of English required to enter the UK is not a step towards integration; it is a barrier to immigration. Thousands of EU nationals come to the UK with poor English, and the majority of them learn good English quite quickly." (Guardian article) This policy change will make it difficult for those with little knowledge of English language to gain access to the UK, specifically those coming from countries where English language courses are hard to come by or costly. The UKBA predicts this will stop around 6,000 people from entering the UK per year (UKBA 2013). Policy 3: Probationary period. The third new amendment is that three years have been added to the probationary period that must be fulfilled before the 7
3318640502 sponsored individual can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). Previous to the July 9th changes the period was two years but it has now has been increased to five years. Within this five year probationary period, access to public services is denied, such that those sponsored to live in the UK contribute to the economy through paying taxes but have no access to public services (UKBA 2013). Alongside denying these individuals access to services to which they have contributed financially, this serves to keep these individuals as well as their family members in a type of limbo. With their status, and therefore livelihood, uncertain, many experience anxiety and unease due to their vulnerability to deportation (De Genova 2010). The UKBA claims it serves to “test the genuineness of the relationship (UKBA 2013).” On top of this waiting period to apply for ILR, the application must be filed from outside of the UK. This imposes extra travel expenses on families whilst simultaneously separating partners and parents from children whilst the application is being processed. Beyond these negative consequences of extending an already long probationary period, research has shown that in some instances this causes individuals to stay in abusive relationships for longer periods in order to gain citizenship (APPG 2013). This change also affects couples that are returning to the UK from living overseas. Previously, the right to return, allowed couples living together abroad for a period of at least four years to return to the UK and enjoy immediate settlement. With these recent changes those coming back to the borders of the UK must also wait a period of five years before being awarded settled status (UKBA 2013). Policy 4: Elderly dependents. The fourth change to the law means that British Citizens/ settled persons in the UK attempting to sponsor an elderly dependent are facing more onerous requirements. According to the UKBA an elderly dependent is defined as a family member such as parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son or daughter that is 18 years and older. In order to meet the requirements, evidence must be provided that the elderly dependent cannot provide care for themselves. This care includes feeding, washing and cooking. On top of this evidence, proof must be provided that no one in the 8
3318640502 country in which the elderly dependent resides, can provide care. This change has made it impossible for many to sponsor an elderly dependent to come and join their family in the UK. As with ILR, the application must be made from outside of the UK (UKBA 2013). Since elderly dependents cannot switch a prior status such as tourist visa to a family visa, the law requires them to leave the UK to apply. This is particularly problematic in this group as the qualifying requirements laid out by the UKBA state the individual must be in poor health. In addition to these requirements the sponsor of the dependent has to provide evidence of full support to negate any need for state benefits (UKBA 2013). Thus, if a UK citizen/settled person has a family member that is incapable of caring for themselves and no one in their country of origin can provide this care, they are stuck without support unless the UK citizen/settled person is financially secure. These changes were announced on June 13 2012, and three of the four changes outlined above came into affect a less than a month later. Many families were devastated as they were oblivious to the new requirements under which their applications would be scrutinized. These policy changes were introduced through far reaching secondary legislation, not debated within the House of Commons (UK Parliament 2013(2)). In addition to these requirements non-EEA citizens are now required to complete the ‘live in the UK’ test as part of the guidelines to enter the UK. (See appendix). These changes in family migration law are not the only means through which an attempt is being made to restrict bodies from entering the UK, although as The Economist noted in 2013, “Now “family reunification”- the third main route into Britain, accounting for 18% of non-EU total in 2010- is under fire (Economist 2013).” Citizens from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes all countries in the European Union plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway (Welcome Trust 2013), are now being targeted in attempts to cut migration as a whole. It is becoming increasing difficult for non-EEA citizens to study, work and live in the UK. As stated earlier, the Conservative government hopes to restrict migration from hundreds of thousands to tens 9
3318640502 of thousands per annum. According to figures from the Home Office in 2012, sponsored student visas issued last year fell by 20%, family reunion visas were down 10% and work visas fell by 3%. These declining figures provide a picture of the current climate of migration within the UK. Family migration is only one area that is being targeted in the states’ attempt to fulfill their pledge to bring down migration numbers. THE UKBA The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) is the organization responsible for processing family migration visas. This agency was established in 2008, reporting to the Home Office.
CHAPTER 1: Agency and Resistance “Wherever there is power there is resistance.” (Foucault 1978:95-96) When the changes were announced on the 9th of July 2012 many gathered outside of the Home Office to voice their protest against these unfair policies. As the crowd chanted “Theresa May, Shame on you!” individuals spoke, demonstrated and voiced their disbelief and unwillingness to accept migration policies that directly violate Human Rights. Since that day several grassroots campaigns have sprung up in reaction to the measures being implemented by the current government. Alongside these grassroots organizations, many already established organizations directly involved with the plight of migrants have lent their expertise and support. These draconian policies are being met with voices and action. These communities are bringing the stress, despair and depression that these measures are causing to light. The grassroots campaign, known as BritCits, illustrates how people are coming together and using collective agency to resist power structures that are imposing significant and damaging structural change. The main goal of BritCits is “defending the rights of international families, documenting the plight of the divided families” (BritCits 2013.) Through my time in the campaign I have worked with the founders of this organization. Over dinner we discussed their position within BritCits as well as their personal relationship to family migration. Sonel is attempting to sponsor her elderly parents and finding many barriers in her way, whereas Steven is not affected by the changes but feels they are inherently wrong and therefore is active within this grassroots movement. BritCits has provided information and support to those struggling with the July 9thchanges. Their website BritCits.com ministers a meeting place for individuals having to deal with the UKBA. This is seen as essential as the process is complex and confusing for many, especially as the UKBA is reluctant to provide advice. As an informant put it “the UKBA doesn’t want to help you because they want you to fail.” 11
Alongside BritCits’ role in disseminating information and advice about the visa system, they have also collected personal accounts from those facing separation from loved ones. They have collated these accounts into a story pack used for lobbying politicians and highlighting the personal suffering that is occurring due to family migration policy. This story pack allows for MP’s to witness the true consequences of these new policies, rather than viewing it through an economic lens. It has also served as a source of solidarity and solace as it allows those separated from their families to realize they are not alone. For many, writing these stories has served as a form of catharsis. BritCit founder, Steven, has played an integral role in arranging meetings, which provide an atmosphere of support, solidarity and communication. This grassroots movement is continuously involved in the struggle to overturn the new family migration policies. A comment from BritCits expresses concern about the new rules: “The heartbreak, stress and devastation wreaked on Brits who dared to love, be it a parent, spouse or child will be so devastating; it will leave a lasting impact on the economy, our mental and physical health and our values. These rules are causing the break-up of families and couples, with a generation of kids now being brought up by single and ‘Skype’ parents. 1/15/2013 (The Express Tribune).” Although BritCits is serving an important role in providing help to those in need, some of the stories that emerge from this movement mirror nativism - the political belief that those born into a nation hold more rights than those that are not ‘native’ to the country (De Genova 2005). In relation to family migration, much of the discourse coming out of BritCit compares the situation of British Citizens to other EEA nationals, as individuals entering the UK from a nation included in the EEA are entitled to bring their non-EEA spouses to join them in Britain without stipulations on language and income (UKBA 2013). This has served as a major tool in pitting individuals against each other, rather than engendering solidarity. Although many refuse to engage in the nativist discourse, many feel indignant that ‘others’ are enjoying the right to family life in their 12
3318640502 country, while they are stripped of this Human Right. These statements collected from the BritCit story pack illustrate the nativist discourse: “This used to be a great country but the government’s attitude to British people makes us 2nd class citizens. Clearly, they want to force us out to make room for rich people and EU nationals “ “Why is it that there is one rule for Europeans and another for British citizens, in Britain? As with any collective, it is impossible to perfectly align objectives and political ideals. These statements of nativist sentiment serve no purpose in the struggle against the state in regards to family migration. Although nativist discourse has arisen from some within BriCits, it is far from being the dominant conversation. In fact this organisation has brought together individuals from different political, economic and social backgrounds. This solidarity is invaluable as a united front in response to the negative images of immigration presented by many politicians and the media. Many of BritCit’s members would not have had a forum to converse and form ideas and strategies for working against the reforms made on the 9th of July, if it were not for the organisation. Steven and Sonel have been an inspiration to many as they sacrifice their personal time to assist those in need of advice and support in their struggle against the state. During the course of our conversations, Sonel, Steven and I discussed at length the distress, depression and despair that many are living on a day to day basis as they fight for their right for family life. The question of the impact this psychological trauma might have was discussed. Several weeks after this discussion, there were newspaper reports of a young woman who jumped in front of a train with her newborn baby. It was reported that she was severely depressed due to separation from her Egyptian husband who was unable to live in the UK due to visa requirements (Mirror 2013). This tragedy
3318640502 highlights the depression and desperation many are experiencing as a result of the draconian new family migration policies. Another organization active in fighting the new family migration policies is the Joint Coalition for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI). JCWI was founded in 1967 partly in response to Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood”, speech in which he painted a bleak future for the UK if migrants were given continued access to Great Britain. JCWI still campaign for the rights of migrants, believing the political and social climate has changed very little over the intervening years. Their work involves “Campaigning for the justice in immigration, nationality and asylum law and policy” (JCWI 2013). JCWI is challenging the state on the new migration policies, on the grounds that they deny individuals their human rights, specifically Article 8 of European Conference of Human Rights. Alongside their legal work JCWI have played an important role in publicizing the current plight of many migrants in the UK. On 26th November 2012, I attended the JCWI conference; The Plight of the Divided Family. Speakers included Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour MP who has expressed his abhorrence of the current government’s approach to migration. Professor Eleanore Kofman highlighted the gender discrimination implicit in these policies while Barrister Raza Husain QC, discussed the ways these changes are being challenged in a legal context. Months later I had the opportunity to interview Guy Taylor, the campaigns and communications officer for JCWI whose background is with Globalize Resistance, an anti-capitalist activism organization. Guy outlined the different approaches JCWI (a small organisation of just seven staff members) is taking to challenge the new government policies, including the use of legal arguments to challenge government policy, again on the basis that they deny individuals their human rights. By winning individual cases in court, JCWI is allowing some families to live together and supporting the case of migrants as a collective in their challenge to government policy.
3318640502 Guy laid bare the difficulties in gaining public support for the rights of migrants. Guy has been involved in the campaign I Love Migrants which is dedicated to providing an alternative discourse on migration. The goal is to start a public conversation that acknowledges the contributions migrants make to the UK, rather than the threat many believe they represent to British society. This attempt to challenge the nature of public discourse is an integral part of the fight for the rights of migrants. Guy and I also discussed the problems of having to compromise ideals when engaging in politics, such as having to choose individuals that fit a description such as white and middle class in order to encourage empathy from the public. JCWI played a role in overturning the age requirements in spousal visas in 2011 and they are just as dedicated to overturning the latest immigration policies. Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) is an NGO based in London that started in 2006. MRN engaged with family migration issues before the changes of July 9 th and continues to campaign against these most recent restrictions to movements to the UK. Like JCWI, Migrants’ Right Network uses a rights-based approach to the challenge to migration policy. I encountered MRN through their organization of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). This group encouraged individuals to state their opinions on whether the migration changes are meeting the intentions set out by the Home Office. (Please find attached a copy of the questions). After filling out this application and encouraging peers, friends and family to follow suit, I was invited to attend an oral evidence meeting held at the House of Commons. This All Party Parliamentary Inquiry in February 2013 hosted a cross-party panel of MPs, academics, barristers and activists together with many directly affected by the income requirements and added stipulations on sponsoring elderly dependents. The Members of Parliament in attendance at the APPG included Sarah Teather (Lib Dem), Kate Green (Labour), and Lord Teverson (Lib Dem). A key speaker included David Metcalf, a member of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the branch of the Home Office set the task of determining an income requirement “that would prevent 15
3318640502 family dependents from being a burden on the state” (APPG recording). The chosen figure of £18,600 was configured using the median, rather than the mean, which led to a higher figure being deemed to be the point at which family dependents would not be a burden to the state (AAPG 2013). Alongside his position with MAC, Metcalf is a professor at the London School of Economics (LSE 2013). Many questions were directed at Metcalf throughout the APPG meeting, such as what was the number of family dependents that were considered a burden on the state prior to July 9 th. The UKBA had no figures available (APPG 2013). This blanket figure clearly shows how out of touch those making the policies are from those living the consequences. An impression was left of policy having been made in a factual vacuum. Another contributor to the APPG meeting was Barry O’Leary, a member of Immigration Lawyers Practitioners’ Association. He was able to provide some insight from his legal experience of the complications arising from these changes. Many find it difficult to provide satisfactory and accepted evidence of meeting the income criteria, especially for those who are self-employed as they are required to wait until the next fiscal year to provide evidence of their earnings (APPG 2013). O’Leary also pointed out the complexity of meeting the new criteria, especially for those unfamiliar with the law; this is difficult even for many solicitors, as immigration law is a specialized section within the legal system. Many see this as an example of structural violence enacted by the state, through withholding resources and denying certain individuals access based on their financial ability to gain legal representation. Another contributor to the APPG was Mahmud Quayum, an immigration advisor for the Camden Community Law Centre. Quayaum discussed the problematic nature of applying these changes to various cultural and kin organisations. Quayum, showed particular concern that only the income of the sponsor was taken into consideration as many Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian couples tend to rely on extended family for financial support in the early years of marriage. He argued these policies were made without consideration for diverse types of family organisation. 16
Jill Rutters, a member of the Daycare Trust, briefly discussed the English language requirements, but was interrupted as the APPG was meant to solely discuss the income requirements and elderly dependents. Despite APPG’s wish to limit the agenda, many individuals affected by the changes and present at the meeting stressed the difficulty of the English language test they are facing. The second APPG oral evidence session was held on March 6th 2013, again in the House of Commons. The politicians present included Sarah Teather (Lib Dem MP), Baroness Hamwee (Lib Dem Peer), Virendra Sharma (Labour MP), Kate Green (Labour MP) and Lord Teveson (Lib Dem Peer). A key speaker was Helena Wray, a professor at Middlex University. Wray, who has vast knowledge of the legal history of marriage migration into the UK pointed out the various types of discrimination that these rules are enabling. She specifically discussed discrimination against those that are disabled, women, young people and those living outside London. Another speaker was Anita Hurrell, from the Coram Children’s Legal Centre. Hurrell provided examples of children suffering because of these new policies. She highlighted how the UKBA have failed to protect the best interests of children. Dr. Vivienne Nathanson from the British Medical Association also gave evidence at the meeting of the dependence of the UK on migrant workers, particularly within the NHS. She gave illustrations of where valuable doctors have left the UK due to these changes. Lastly Duncan Hames, a Lib Dem MP, spoke about the numerous constituents that have approached him for help in sponsoring their family members. Alongside receiving invaluable information surrounding family migration by attending these two APPG meetings, I also had the opportunity to interview Ruth GroveWhite, the policy director at MRN. White felt that the APPG meetings were effective as they provided space for MPs to hear evidence from those affected by these new immigration rules, allowing the problems associated with these policies to be highlighted 17
3318640502 and discussed in a formal setting. Unfortunately these committees were an ad hoc inquiry rather than a formal committee and therefore cannot present evidence to, or demand a response from, Parliament. As well as encouraging a serious discussion with MPs regarding family migration, MRN is working to get media coverage of these issues. White is hopeful that the income requirements will be made less onerous, although not in the short term, as it is an issue with which the public can empathise, especially in response to stories in the media that involve children suffering due to separation from their parents. By forming connections between journalists and those affected by the 9th July changes, MRN is trying to get their message across to the public. White felt that perhaps the cause of elderly dependents will separate from those fighting for the uniting of spouses, as they involve different arguments and engender different levels of sympathy from the public. One is fighting for the rights of low income families while the other pertains to high earners attempting to bring over their parents.
CHAPTER 2: Human Rights and the State’s response The Declaration of Human Rights came about after the Second World War, in an attempt to produce a body of rights that would uphold and respect human life (United Nations 2013). Some contemporary Conservative politicians, such as Home Secretary Theresa May, have made statements that question the UK’s position regarding these fundamental principles. May has stated that if the Conservative Party wins the election in 2015, the UK could consider opting out of the European convention of Human Rights. Although these words may have an element of political posturing, if it were to come about the UK would join Belarus as the only other European country not abiding by ECHR (BBC 2013 (1)). Regardless of the future of the UK’s relationship to Human Rights, here are the articles that are being violated by the 9 th of July changes. Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 16 (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during the marriage and its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state. (United Nations 2013)
European Convention of Human Rights Article 8: Right to Family Life (1) Everyone has the rights to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondents. (2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. (European Convention of Human Rights 2012) As Hannah Arendt theorized, there is only one human right, and it is the ‘right to have rights, or the right to claim one’s rights’ (The Origins of Totalitarianism 1951). This idea is a useful starting point in examining those in Britain who are fighting for their right to family life. As it currently stands you can access this Human Right only if you make enough money to meet the income requirements or if you are capable of navigating around the bureaucratic requirements of the UKBA. Although these rights are a nice sentiment it seems in the current climate they are just that and little else, as through this research I encountered many individuals that believe they are being denied the right to share their lives with their family. The state appears to be suspending these Human Rights through states of exception (Agamben 2005). The claim is made that this breach is justifiable in the name of safety and security and in the best interest of the nation. However, while from the Governments’ perspective these regulations may be protecting British citizens from immigrants draining the countries resources for a significant minority it is denying them the right to family life.
3318640502 The government is claiming they are not violating the Human Right to family life as the family can move to the native country of the applicant rather than the sponsor. In the words of an individual caught in the battle to sponsor her husband to join her in the UK “I was told my rights to a family life were not being interfered with as I could take my son and go live with him abroad” (Family Migration Alliance 2013). This justification from the state in regards to not being in violation of Human Rights is questionable in that it assumes that the applicant resides in a country that will welcome the UK family member and it fails to acknowledge cases where the non-EEA individual is from a country that the British government has deemed dangerous for British citizens to visit, let alone inhabit. According to the UK government Iran, Yemen, Syria and many other nations should be avoided by British Citizens all together, whilst it also recommends avoiding parts of Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Thailand and several other regions of nations (UK gov 2013). Another circumstance the new regulations appear to ignore is that of same-sex couples, where the spouse’s country of origin does not recognize their union as a legitimate bond, or where they could face persecution due to their sexual orientation. One example is the United States where it explicitly states on the spousal visa application page “same-sex marriages are not recognized by immigration law for the purpose of immigrating to the U.S.” (U.S. Department of State 2013). There is thus implicitly enshrined within the legislation the assumption that the British citizen/settled is able to relocate to another country. Take for example, Jack, a British Citizen that I met though in the course of this research. After meeting at one of the APPG meetings we talked at length about his situation. Eventually he had to leave as he became tearful recounting his separation from his wife and children. Later that week he sent me his story which is here paraphrased:
Jack grew up in England and has worked and paid tax for the last thirty years. He is caught in a battle with the UKBA to obtain a visa for his wife and two children who are currently residing in Lagos, Nigeria. Jack is facing complications in proving his salary as he is self-employed. Due to this complicated process, Jack feels he has been denied the right to bond with this 2 month old son; since his birth he has only seen him for a period of 10 days. In the words of Jack “I will never be able to get these moments back, such as missing his first smile.” This separation affects the wider family, not just Jack. His parents are elderly are therefore incapable of making the journey to Lagos, and have therefore they yet to meet their new grandson. In addition to the emotional distress the July 9th changes are causing Jack and his family it has put a strain on his finances. The only opportunity he has to see his
3318640502 family is by traveling to Nigeria, as his wife and children are not eligible for a visit visa as the UKBA believe they could overstay their visa. Therefore, he has to fly to Nigeria at his own expense in order to see his family. On top of the flights Jack must also pay the $125.00 for a Nigerian visa. Jack is sending money to his wife as she is caring for their infant child and consequently unable to work. Additional expenses involve private health care, as Nigeria does not have a national health care system. Jack is in the position of having to financially support two households as opposed to one if his wife and children were allowed to join him in the UK. In order to afford this Jack has rented out the rooms in his home and is currently sleeping on the sofa bed in his living room. Jack feels this is absurd as if he were allowed his right to family life; his income would be spent in the UK, therefore making a greater contribution to the economy. According to Jack, the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) denied his family from entering the UK as “nothing is stopping Jack from living and working in Lagos”. However Jack believes this officer neglected to take enough time to review Jacks’ situation, as he also has a son from a previous marriage, therefore relocating to Lagos is not an option as it would require Jack abandoning his son in the UK. Jack stated, “How long does the UK government think I can continue to send money to Nigeria or do they prefer me to abandon my wife and sons?”
Beyond these instances where migrating to the spouse’s country is difficult, there are other factors that face individuals. Some have chosen to settle in the UK to live near a support network consisting of family and friends. This is especially true for individuals that have children with a previous partner in the UK as in many cases this prevents them from taking the child with them to another country as this would deny the child a relationship with their other parent. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT 23
Although many feel they are being denied their rights by the UKBA, some are choosing to enforce their rights through the E.U Freedom of Movement Act (BritCits 2013) The family temporarily moves to another country within the E.U.; the British citizen/settled person finds employment for a period of time then they re-enter the UK claiming their right to Freedom of Movement and enjoy the right to family life within Britain. Surinder Singh won a case in the European Court establishing the legality of this approach ( UKBA 2013) Although this provides some with an alternative to meeting the UK requirements it is not an option open to all, as again it boils down to access. For some it is beyond their means to move to a European country due to family obligations, work responsibilities and finances. Another consideration is that many are unaware that this route even exists. As mentioned earlier, the UKBA is reluctant to provide help to those attempting to sponsor their family and the law is complex and confusing.
DISCOURSE FROM PARLIAMENT “Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core (Hannah Arendt 1963:49) Conservative Party Manifesto “Strong families are the bedrock of a strong society. They provide the stability and love we need to flourish as human beings, and the relationships they foster are the foundation on which society is built- Britain’s families will get our full backing across all our policies. We need good, strong families to help our society work well. We will support families to stay together (Conservative web-site).” This manifesto pledge is arguably severely compromised by the changes in family migration introduced by the UK government, of which the Conservative party forms the majority group. Members of the party, particularly the Home Secretary Theresa May, argue there is no violation of Human Rights by using an economic argument: “The income threshold is designed to prevent ‘dependent’ partners from relying excessively on public funds and subsequently posing a burden on the country’s welfare system (Express Tribune 2013)” This statement appears superfluous as following successful applications; it explicitly states on the acceptance document that the individual has no recourse to public funds (UKBA 2013). This denial of public funds for sponsored family members lasts for a period of five years which means those who enter the UK through family migration can work and contribute to the economy through paying taxes during this period, yet are denied access to the state services they financially contribute to. The statement also appears to ignore the social and welfare costs of family breakdown; if you turn intact 25
3318640502 families into single parent structures, the likelihood of needing to claim benefits is higher due to the added pressure on the parent left with the responsibility of caring for the child and the home. This is the case for Emma who spoke about her situation at the JCWI conference in November.
Emma is a British citizen who recently married a Moroccan man. They were living together in Morocco, until Emma returned home for a visit and discovered she was pregnant. After weighing up their options the couple decided to make the UK their home. However this has proved difficult due to the July 9th income changes. Consequently Emma is living alone in the UK with a newborn without the financial support of her husband. If they were allowed to co-habitat in the UK, Emma would enjoy the added financial security her husband could provide as they would potentially have two incomes rather than one. By sharing the duties of childcare and home maintenance, this family could be more financially secure. Emma is now living as a single parent.
3318640502 The economic arguments may have some, limited validity, but in the area of immigration, there have always been other, darker emotions at play. Looking back through history, the discourse surrounding immigration has changed very little, for the many migrant groups that have come to the UK over the years. These groups have all experienced some form of persecution and or mistreatment. There are now new groups, legally able to reside in the UK as a result of E.U freedom of movement that are now being portrayed by some elements of the popular media as a threat to everything from jobs to British identity. Polish citizens bore the main brunt of this characterisation for many years, but the torch is now been passed to Romanians and Bulgarians (Guardian 2013) to the point where Ministers were considering running advertisements in Romanian and Bulgaria that painted UK in a negative light (Guardian 2013). This is not a matter specific to the UK, with an oft-quoted example being the White Australia policy that was in place until the 70’s. Similarly Afghan Khosravi (2010) recalls his observations when returning to his home country of Iran, “Afghan immigrants and their children are blamed for almost all social and other problems in Iran, from unemployment and increasing criminality to the spread of social disease.” Government policy and rhetoric representing migrants as problems can be observed across history as well as cross-nationally. When leaders implicitly or explicitly paint migrants as problems and threats the population often internalizes this discourse and becomes resentful of the new bodies. This can lead to racist sentiment, and mistreatment of migrant communities. This scapegoating manifests itself in support for organizations such as BNP and Migrants Watch. The negative discourse surrounding immigration in the UK is not solely coming from the Conservative Party. Nick Clegg from the Liberal Democratic Party has suggested that migrants coming into the UK should pay a bond to ensure they don’t overstay their visas (BBC 2013 (2) The Labour party, perhaps in response to increased media attention to immigration issues, has de facto apologized for letting too many in while they were in power.
CHAPTER 3: Discrimination In this chapter, the legislative changes are examined from the perspective of whether they implicitly, explicitly or accidentally discriminate against particular groups with in society. Within any one individual there are many different characteristics, and therefore any form of analysis by societal group is a form of denial of the individual. However, the aggregation of people in to groups according to gender, sexuality, nationality etc, is a research tool to help establish biases in the impact of regulation. Class / income level: In both the application process and the criteria for acceptance, it would appear from prima facie evidence, that those on lower incomes have a lower chance of success. The application fees cost £826 (UKBA 2013) and these application costs are set to rise in the future, which at best makes it harder for some to apply, and effectively disqualifies some of those on the lowest incomes. The increased income requirements would also appear to be discriminatory against the least well off. The state is implicitly saying those on incomes above £18,600 are encouraged to marry whereas those on incomes lower than this are only encouraged to marry those who live within the EEA. To achieve this level of income on current minimum wage levels would require an individual to work around 57 hours per week. To draw a parallel between those in power making the policies to those affected, it should be noted that the current annual earnings for a Member of Parliament is £65,738 (Parliament 2013). I first met David at the APPG conference in February 2013, where he spoke about his situation and the difficulties he was experiencing sponsoring his spouse to join him in
3318640502 the UK. We have since spoken over Skype, which allowed me to also ‘meet’ Dee his wife. Here is a summary of our conversation:
David is a British citizen residing in Swansea while his wife Dee is currently living in Ontario Canada while waiting for a spousal visa. David and Dee feel they have suffered discrimination because of the migration polices that negatively impact on those earning less that £18,600 per annum. David works as a builder as well as a security guard and makes approximately £13,500 annually. As David stated, “£18,600 is a lot of money and I wouldn’t make that amount even if I relocated to London.” Previous to being separated David and Dee were residing together in his home in Swansea, where they “were not a burden on the system but rather contributed through working and paying tax.” At no point in her stay did Dee claim benefits from the state. Dee was approaching the period in which she was eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Dee was forced to return home to Canada as the new rules dictate that the individual applying for ILR must do so from outside of the UK. Relocating to Canada is not an option for David 29
3318640502 and Dee, as David cares for his 17 year old daughter who suffers from autism. Due to her condition, moving to Canada, or for that matter another European country, in order to exercise freedom of movement, would be detrimental to her health. Despite failing to meet the income requirements of £18,600 David and Dee are in the process of applying for their spousal visa. David had the chance to speak to Barry O’Leary, a barrister specializing in immigration, during the APPG meeting in February. O’Leary advised David to apply regardless of not meeting the requirements. Once the couple has been denied they can appeal under the Human Rights Act. According to O’Leary this is the best plan of action for the couple. To have a ‘hearing’ based solely on documentary evidence costs £80.00, whereas, a hearing in person costs £140.00. In the case of failed applications, or failed appeals, the UKBA keeps the application fee and charges an additional £826 to apply again. Having found sufficient funds to progress, David and Dee are hoping to get a spouse visa though appeal. David sounds hopeful about their situation, whereas Dee sounds slightly more skeptical - possibly due to the hoops they have already had to jump through in order to live together as husband and wife. By the time they hope to finally receive their spouse visa the two will have been separated for a year and a half. Race: “It feels like I am being punished by my own government, for marrying someone whose religion and race doesn't fit in with the correct image.” (BritCits 2013) The idea of ‘race’, a group identity based on shared biological, geographical and cultural commonalities has been challenged from a biological analysis and that is largely a social construction (Boas 1944). While acknowledging race holds no biological grounds 30
3318640502 it is clear that many governments throughout history have made policy based on racial prejudices and that individuals hold strong views based on their prejudice relating to certain racial groups. Here we examine evidence of whether the new family migration rules are a policy that discriminates against non-white migrants. Past governments have made attempts to limit the brown bodies that enter the U.K. For example the Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1962 was introduced to reduce the numbers of “colored immigrants” (Paul 1991). A few years later the government put up more onerous legal barriers to certain races gaining access to Britain with another Commonwealth Immigration Act in 1968. Although it was never explicitly stated, some commentators believe the main purpose of this act was to halve all non-white immigration into the UK (Wray 2010). Beyond these immigration policies, certain groups were denied the same treatment once they were inside the U.K. In the words of Enoch Powell, “The West Indian or Indian does not, by being born in England, become an Englishman. In law he becomes a United Kingdom citizen by birth; in fact he is a West Indian or Indian still (Paul 1991:178).” As Paul (1991) discusses, the election of 1964 was the first election to be fought and won based on issues of race and immigration. Although it is debatable how much has changed much in the last 50 years there is now a similar political debate occurring with the Coalition Government although the language and overt references to race may have changed. In a close second behind economics in the immigration debate is racism masked in the terms integration and assimilation. The changes in family migration made on the 9th of July 2012 are yet another discriminatory immigration policy against non-white migrants.
3318640502 “The impact of these proposals will be felt most acutely by applicants from the Indian Subcontinent, other areas of Asia and Africa, which are the areas from which the most spousal applications are made.”(JCWI 2013) Gender The new English language requirement is discriminatory towards women, as globally women receive less formal education than men, and in particular countries these differences in education standards are marked.Women who are attempting to migrate from non-majority English speaking countries are required to learn English to the B1 level regardless of the social and political treatment of women in their home nation. These women attempting to join their families in the UK face hurdles that are more difficult for them to get over than men applying from the same country. These new immigration policies are yet another discriminatory act in a long chain of oppression of women through movement and migration. Historically and contemporarily Britain is a patriarchal society, judged through the perspective of current and past policies. According to Wray (2010) from 1905 to 1948 women who married a non-British citizen were forced to forfeit their citizenship and adopt their husband’s nationality. Wray (2010) discusses the attitude at that time, where a woman was expected to move from the household of her father after marriage to her husband’s, therefore, she was meant to adopt the nationality of her new ‘keeper’. For many, the policies of today have much the same effect for those that fail to meet the new family migration requirements. “I feel like the Government is trying to force me out because I married a foreigner” (Standard 2013). The income requirements for marriage visas are discriminatory towards women, based on an assessment of income levels and success rates for applications. According to the Migratory Advisory at the University of Oxford, the percentage of women being affected by these changes is 61%, while men total only 23%. In spite of the concerted
3318640502 efforts of various feminist movements within the UK over the past 50 years, British women still on average make less than their male counterparts. According to a study conducted by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) “female managers are now paid on average £31,895 per year compared with £42,441 for men doing the same job” (BBC 2013(4). Also the Guardian (2013) reported women in full-time employment earn on average £5,409 less than men. Women are discriminated against if they work, as their chances of making the requirement salary is less than men, and they are discriminated against if they keep the home, as they don’t receive monetary remuneration and therefore would fail to meet the £18,600 figure. It is difficult to argue against working women having the same right to family life as their male counterparts from an economic perspective. It is equally difficult to argue that if left with the task of reproducing society through the care of the next generation, that they should be denied the support of their spouse. These family migration polices neglect to the contributions that women make to British society. Aimee, a British Citizen, is married to an Egyptian man and the couple recently had their first child together. Aimee feels the income requirement of £18,600 is beyond her means as she is providing full time care for their newborn child since her husband is not allowed to live with her and help with the needs of their infant. In the words of Aimee “a salary of £18,600 might as well be 186,000 as it is so difficult to attain” (BritCits 2013). Age According to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, the increase in the income requirement is having a significant effect on young British citizens, specifically people in their twenties. Many youths entering the job market today are facing un-paid internships, low wages and high unemployment. Many are also entering the job market with a substantial amount of debt, due to the increase in university tuition fees. Although the category of ‘youth’ suggests a homogeneous community there are 33
3318640502 many sub-sets based on dimensions such as class, race, gender, sexuality and regional habitation. Regardless of the other demographic markers, these changes in family migration policies are discriminating against those that are new to the labor market, as young people on average make less money than those between the ages of 30-50 (Migratory Observatory 2013). This is especially true for young people who are studying, as it is virtually impossible to study full time and make £18,600. While speaking with Cat, a 21 year-old recent graduate from Cornwall, she expressed feeling discriminated against in many regards, one of them being due to her age. Here is the story of Cat and Saraj.
Cat has recently received a University degree. She is still in the process of seeking a job and attending interviews. She has been with Siraj for 2 years. Siraj is originally from Pakistan. They were married on the 27 th of December 2012. Due
3318640502 to the income requirement changes to family migration she is experiencing intense pressure to find well remunerated employment. Both she and Siraj reside in Cornwall where salaries above the £18,600 pa threshold are difficult to come by, particularly for young people. This region of England relies heavily on the tourist industry; therefore many jobs tend to be seasonal or part-time, making it more unlikely that an individual can make £18,600 in any given year. Despite the limited employment opportunities, Cat has managed to secure several interviews but has been finding it extremely difficult. “I feel like the pressure of getting a job to keep my husband in the UK is affecting my performance in interviews. I’m so nervous that I don’t behave as I normally would.” They have explored many avenues to keep them both in the same country, including asylum. Siraj has resided in the UK for the past 9 years, since he was a teenager. Regardless of this history he has been unsuccessful in gaining citizenship within the UK. Siraj is highly educated and currently supports Cat financially. In fact without his support she wouldn't have the means to afford transport to and from interviews. If he is deported she will have to rely on support from her parents and move back into the family home. After reviewing the pointsbased system, Cat was confused and frustrated with the process. She sought advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, UKBA and George Eustice, her local MP. She found these sources offered little to no help, particularly the UKBA; ‘they don’t want to give you advice because they want you to fail.” Due to the bureaucratic method used to determine eligibility of marriage visas, Cat’s husband could be denied despite his contribution to her and the UK’s economy. Cat feels these new requirements are “punishing her for falling in love with someone other than a British citizen.” There is also strong evidence that those at the other end of the age spectrum, are effectively discriminated against by the new policies. Those that have left the job market for retirement are must also prove that their pension exceed £18,600 annually. Those that 35
3318640502 fall short of this hurdle and don’t have sufficient savings are left with few options, besides rejoining the job market and finding employment that meets the requirement. The story below illustrates the frustration felt by Mr. Howard: “My name is Mr. Howard; I am a British born citizen, 68 years old and retired. I have an American fiancée who is 65 and also retired. We met on a pen pal site approximately 18 months ago. We soon learnt that we had a lot in common such as her love of everything British i.e., the history, castles, cathedrals, the landscape and British people, all the same interests as me. In the last 18 months she has visited England twice and on both occasions she has stayed at my house. Also over that period we had grown very fond of each other and on her second visit we realised that we had fallen in love and wanted to spend what remaining years we had together as husband and wife. We worked out what finances we had; we both have pensions and that amounted to £1200 per month, more than adequate for us to live on without recourse to public funds, and we also both have some savings. This was more than adequate to meet the Family Immigration Rules prior to 12th July 2012. So we decided that we would get married sometime in late 2012 or early 2013. These new rules have, like for many others, completely devastated us. As a British citizen I have worked here and paid my taxes and I have had my British and human rights stripped from me. It has been very difficult for my fiancée to understand how the British government can do this to one of their citizens. It is indeed also beyond my comprehension as to how they can do this. I fully agree that immigration has to be restricted but this is not the right way to go about it, as non-EU family immigration is such a small percentage of the total. The fact that EU citizens can come into this country with their wives and children with none of the financial restrictions that are placed on me have turned me into a 2nd class citizen in my own country. Finally, I never 36
3318640502 ever thought the day would come that I felt ashamed to be British, but that day has come.”
Sexuality Homosexual couples have faced legal discrimination and personal persecution for years, although legislation has slowly made steps that have reduced this. This discrimination has been seen both within the UK and globally. The UK government has finally taken steps to recognize same sex couples (BBC 2013 (3), but many are facing hardships due to the changes made on 9th July 2012.
I have not met the following individuals in person as they currently reside in Thailand, but I had the opportunity to meet the mother of Juliet while attending the APPG meeting. Through communicating via e-mail I was able to collect the story of Juliet and Mary. They have lived in Thailand for the past 4 years. During this time Juliet has worked as a teacher, while her partner was employed as a chef. After much anticipation, Juliet was successful in becoming pregnant. The couple has now been joined by twin girls. Regardless of their enthusiasm for becoming parents, this further complicates the process of relocating to the UK. The income requirements in this case are particularly hard for the couple to meet. Juliet currently makes the required amount - but not within the boundaries of the UK. Since the UKBA requires the £18,600 amount to be earned within the UK, Juliet 38
3318640502 would have to leave Thailand and leave her family behind, find a job in the UK that makes £18,600, hold that job for a period of six months and then she could apply to sponsor her civil partner. The processing time for the family’s visa could take months, meaning Juliet, her partner and their twin babies would face up to a year of separation. This case is particularly complex in that they wish to live in the UK because in Thailand Juliet’s partner is not recognized as the second parent, due to laws pertaining to same-sex couples. Within the boundaries of the UK, Juliet’s partner could enjoy legal rights to her own children. Regional During the APPG meeting in Feburary 2013, the audience erupted into laughter when David Metcalf, a member of the MAC, stated that the “income threshold across the UK is not that different.” According to reports produced by the Migratory Observatory at Oxford (2013) “51% of people in Wales will not qualify to bring in a family member due to the income requirement of 18,600”. Also reports carried out by Migratory Observatory (2013) show that “areas of England with the lowest eligibility are Merseyside, where 56% of people will not be eligible.” Despite these areas where the capacity to earn the required amount is more difficult, the MAC brought forth a blanket figure that neglects to take cost of living, expenses, and regional earnings into consideration.
CHAPTER 4: Bureaucracy of Love “In practice bureaucratic procedure invariably means ignoring all the subtleties of real social existence and reducing everything to preconceived mechanical or statistical formulae (Graeber 2006:9).” According to the UKBA (2013) those that wish to obtain a marriage/civil partnership visa must provide evidence that “your relationship with your partner is genuine and subsisting.” Using bureaucracy to determine if couples are legitimate or illegitimate is problematic as love is an abstract idea and therefore is understood and communicated in various ways. There is strong political sensitivity around this issue, because of the fear of sham marriages. Through the restrictions of family migration intimate relationships are being reduced to pieces of paper. In the case of marriage/civil partnerships the UKBA requires the couple to share financial resources. This, part of the state’s definition of a genuine relationship, seems at odds with the visa requirements that only take in to account the income of the spouse resident in the UK in to account. Their definition of a relationship suggests that both individuals’ earnings should be taken into consideration regarding the £18,600 figure. This logical conclusion is supported by the research evidence, as most individuals that I spoke to intend to support each other in various ways, including financially. Due to the bureaucratic surrounding visa applications, many that meet the income requirements are facing hardship. Rob and Linda’s experience with the UKBA illustrates the disconnect between those administrating the visa applications and those attempting to sponsor their family. Before the July 9th changes Rob applied for a spouse visa so Linda could join him in the UK. They submitted their application on the 26 thof June 2012. They thought 40
3318640502 they had included all the necessary documents and forms, however, after two and a half months they received an e-mail stating they needed to include an SELT (secure English language tests (UKBA 2013) English Test within seven days or the visa would be denied. Despite the late notice the couple was able to submit the test within the deadline. After another month passed they received a message that they could come and collect their application, only to find the application had been rejected due to the English Language test. They were both puzzled as Linda has an excellent grasp of English. After investigating their denial they discovered Linda had passed the reading, writing and listening portion but had failed to submit the speaking requirement. Needless to say the couple was distraught and frustrated as instead of the UKBA informing them of the missing element, their application was refused. Rob and Linda are now being asked to pay another £826.00 application fee to resubmit the spouse visa. Their re-submission now falls under the changes made on 9th July and Rob now fails to meet the income requirements of £18,600 per annum. They contacted a lawyer but the solicitor felt they had little chance of winning an appeal. As they have little other choice, Rob is now trying to sell his home in England and relocate to Indonesia, as at this point, it seems the only avenue that will allow them to be together. (BriCits 2013) Regardless of the fairness of the regulations regarding spouse visas, and despite the relatively high cost of making an application, the services received are far from efficient. In recent news there was found to be a large backlog of cases that had yet to be processed.“A backlog of immigration applications as big as the population of Iceland will take 24 years to clear at the rate the shambolic UK Border Agency is working, according to a House of Commons committee” (Express 2013). Further evidence of the ineffectiveness of UKBA visa processing system is expressed by JCWI, “The fact that there is a 53% success rate on appeal shows the poor quality of decision making.” 41
3318640502 For those that are denied family visas it is frustrating and complex to retrieve information as to why they were denied their visas. By law, the UK Border Agency must provide applicants with information according to the Freedom of Information Act of 2000. This act requires public authorities to provide information to those requesting data (Government Legislation 2000), however there are additional stipulations added to this act. For instance the UKBA may deny information if they determine that providing the requested information will cost them more than the set amount of £600. This means that if they declare the request for information will take more than 24 hours to find, as the hourly rate is £25, the request is denied due to being too costly (BritCits 2013). Sonel from the group BritCits made a clear request for information in three cases in which the elderly dependent visa requirements were believed to have been met. The UKBA responded that they could not provide this information as it would take too long to find. It appears that the most emotional and significant milestones in the lives of individuals only exist and have some ‘truth’ if they are also recognised and processed by that state. Torpey (2000) provides a clear understanding of the implications of the invention of the passport. Using Marx’s model of the means of production, Weber applies this to the modern nation-state in regards to violence. By deciding which acts are legitimate the state appropriated the means of violence. Again borrowing from this model Torpey (2000) theorizes that the state has monopolized the means of movement through documentation and surveillance, using technology, administration and bureaucracy as ways to uphold the monopolization of movement. Without these forms of infrastructure it would be impossible to maintain surveillance of so many people. In today’s global world those with the correct documentation are allowed to move freely while those that fail to obtain the correct paperwork are denied access to family life. The recent changes in family migration have caused many individuals that were previously disinterested or ill-informed in the politics of migration to engage with these issues. Grassroots movements and organizations focusing on immigration, such as the ones discussed above, are making connections outside of family migration. By building 42
3318640502 ties and bonds with those engaged in struggles concerning asylum and refugees a united front that discusses the issues in all their complexity is emerging.
CONCLUSION There is as yet no conclusion to be drawn on the impact of these new policies, as nothing has been settled or resolved and campaigning remains vigorous. This research shows that individuals across the globe are suffering due to being denied their right to family life. Their very individual stories, their lack of homogeneity, show the crude bluntness of the new policies and the ability they have to destroy lives. This faceless category contains individuals that live, breathe, and experience emotion. By engaging with these individuals who are being separated from their families, we are able to get a better understanding of what these restrictive policies really mean. Those involved in the campaign remain hopeful that these policies, if not overturned, can become more sensitive to the realities of people’s lives and can be made more humane and indeed more in line with the Government’s manifesto pledges on treatment of families. My involvement with this issue is far from over, as I will continue to campaign and raise awareness. Although I am optimistic that the four changes made on 9 th July will eventually be overturned, as was the age requirement in 2011, the real matter at hand is the mistreatment of people in the meantime. As it is impossible to reimburse lost family memories and shared time, it will be difficult for the state to regain support from those so severely mistreated. I will be outside the Home Office on 9 th July 2013, the one year anniversary of when the new family migration policies came into effect, protesting and voicing my discontent. As these restrictive measures to family migration are but one way to halt movement of human beings, this is an issue that deserves constant attention and consideration.
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3318640502 Paul, Kathleen (1997). Whitewashing Britian. United States: Cornell University Press. 1253. Torpey, John (2000). The invention of the passport:Surveillance, Citzenship and the State. New York : Cambridge University Press. 1-167. Weber, M. [1904-1905] 2003. ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’. Dover Publications Wray, Helena (2011). Regulating Marriage Migration into the UK: A Stranger in the Home. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited . 1-241.
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