British citizens who don’t earn enough are finding their basic rights to a family life violated by new Immigration regulations.
It was a fairy tale romance that turned into a nightmare. Maliha Khan, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, met Bilal while working in Dubai in 2011. They fell in love, and Maliha first thought she would move to Dubai permanently to be with him. But then, due to other commitments she had to travel back to the UK.
The next few months apart were hard on the young couple: they kept in touch through Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook, spending countless hours on the phone, with each minute apart seeming like a lifetime.
Finally, they decided to take their relationship to the next level by getting married, only to face an all-too common problem. Bilal was a Pakhtun and Maliha was the grandchild of migrants who had moved to Pakistan during partition.
Even though Maliha was herself a British citizen and Bilal was gainfully employed in Dubai, their families objected to the match and demanded that the two end their relationship.
Undismayed by their parents’ disapproval, the couple got married in court in May 2012. With this hurdle out of the way, it seemed that this story would have a happy ending, but this was not to be: when Maliha tried to sponsor her spouse for a visa to the UK, she was refused.
Unknown to her, the UK government had changed the immigration laws and it was no longer possible for Bilal to join her in Britain. Had the couple applied only 6 days earlier, the old regulations would have allowed them to live together.
The UK’s ruling coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Britain, who have traditionally been at opposing ends of the political spectrum, agreed to introduce a cap on non-EU immigration following the formation of their government in 2010.
As of July 9th, 2012, they introduced a minimum income requirement of £18,600 to sponsor a spouse; £22,400 to sponsor a spouse including one child and an additional £2,400 for each additional child. According to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, 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.
These new requirements mean that Maliha, who earns less than the minimum £18,600, is barred from bringing her spouse with her. Ironically, while the government says it is concerned about burdening the welfare system, Maliha herself says she has never even claimed the welfare benefits she was entitled to, simply because she felt they should go to those who were truly needy.
Now she finds herself hundreds of miles away from her husband and facing an uncertain future. “It’s such an awful state to be in; I wouldn’t wish it even upon my enemy. I feel lonely and stressed out. I don’t know how I will ever see Bilal again. How will we be together again? When will I be able to live a normal married life and when will I have children? I cannot think straight, I cannot sleep. I feel like I am slipping into depression.”
She’s only one of many who have been affected by these regulations. According to BritCits, a campaign group of British Citizens, the new laws are causing great damage to the welfare of British citizens, and proving detrimental to the family system, especially for the non-EU spouses, parents and children of British citizens.
“Please help us stand up for what’s right; please speak up and take action. Please don’t let any government erode basic rights of British citizens in our own country. Please allow us to be real families, and not be forced into being ‘Skype’ families,” reads a statement issued by BritCits.
They add: “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.”
The Con-Dem Government defends these regulations by claiming they are in place to protect the taxpayer. Ironically, BritCit activists claim that they too are taxpayers and their concerns are being ignored.
Another consequence of the new Immigration regulations is that many British citizens with non-EU partners now feel like they are second class citizens as compared to other EU nationals residing in Britain who face no such restrictions.
For instance, Laura Bold is a 25 year old British citizen from Scotland who works as a laboratory scientist for a global veterinary company. She had married a 28 year old Egyptian man over two years ago, and was informed about the new rules only two days after her husband’s recent visit to London.
“My salary is at the upper end of those in similar positions in Edinburgh, Scotland. Yet my salary does not quite meet the income required to sponsor my husband to settle in the UK,” she says.
Although Laura has taken additional jobs to meet the criteria, she lives in constant fear that the UKBA may change the rules again, or that she may lose one of her jobs. She adds: “It is very frustrating that the government has not taken age/gender/regional salary ranges into account. My husband was also offered a job here in the UK, but his prospective income is not taken into account- which makes no sense to me.”
“I cannot believe the UK government is discriminating against its own citizens; yet EU citizens have far more flexible rules to bring their spouses into the UK. All I want is to be treated equally and not be treated as a second class citizen in my own country.”
She terms the new immigration laws a violation of basic human rights: “The right to a private life means that you have the right to carry on your life privately, without government interference, as long as you also respect the rights of other people. I am being unfairly treated and discriminated again and have had my basic human rights stripped from me,” she says.
The new British Immigration rules are also making it difficult for elderly parents living outside of Britain to reunite with their children. So long as the parents are healthy and have access to some form of domestic help, they cannot join their British children. Only if they are completely incapacitated and without friends or family in their home country would they be considered by the British government. In a nutshell, if your parents are healthy and cared for, they’re not welcome.
This was the case with Clara, a British citizen who has been living in the UK for over 12 years. She worked for the British government, paid her taxes and never claimed a penny in benefits. Clara wants the right to live with her Australian parents, who have no other family there. She is happy to provide financial guarantees to the government and take private healthcare cover for her parents to reduce their reliance on the NHS. She asserts that her parents would also be bringing their financial assets to the UK.
Although her parents would not be entitled to a UK pension or other benefits, the British government still refuses to allow her parents to live with her.
“But this isn’t about money,” Clara says. “At least, it shouldn’t be. It’s about respect for those who gave us life, education and opportunities so we could have a better life. It’s about love. And it’s about responsibility”.
New Immigration Rules
Nobody earning less than £18,600 per annum can bring a partner into the UK.
— The net amount of £18,600 can comprise of savings, with the formula that £16,000 plus (2.5 times the difference between earnings and 18600) is required. For instance, if a person is earning £40,000 but just lost his job, he would require £62,000 in savings to bring his partner into the UK.
— The amount required increases with children.
— The amount required takes no account of different regions (ie an £18,600 salary in central London is very different from an £18,600 salary in Town side).
— The income is for the UK partner ONLY. If the overseas partner is the main earner, this would make it difficult for the expatriate Brit to return to the UK. For instance, if a British woman (and housewife) is married to a middle-class husband in Japan, the family would now face exile under the new rules.
— For British Citizens or non-EEA nationals with permanent residence in the UK to bring their elderly parent over to the UK, they would have to prove:
Their parent requires “long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks.”
Even with their practical and financial help, their parent is unable to “obtain the required level of care in the country where they are living, because (a) it is not available and there is no person in that country who can reasonably provide it; or (b) it is not affordable”
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, January 13th, 2013.
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