"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.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Death in Detention


Just when my opinion of HO and its vile practices could sink no lower, 33 year old Pinakin Patel, who with his wife Bhavisha, had been locked up in Yarl's Wood for over two months, died in detention this week. The young couple from India had hoped to visit family and friends and visit Scotland for a 10-day holiday, but were refused entry and detained.

Their crime? Although they held visitor visas, itinerary and return tickets, Bhavisha carried evidence of her qualifications, making immigration officers suspect the couple was entering UK, with its gold-paved streets, to work.

I believe Bhavisha's claims that she brought the docs with her only because she didn't know what would be needed at the border.  It's entirely possible the couple had submitted these in order to obtain the visit visa, so maybe they thought it would be needed at immigration too. (Incidentally, if one really wants to enter the UK to work illegally, surely a mastermind would post the docs from overseas?).  IOs either discovered the qualifications or the couple volunteered them - former suggests profiling and targeting (remember Radha Patel?), the latter, obviously innocence.

On the off-chance IOs did catch the couple entering the UK to work unlawfully (although this is infinitely better than when Brits entered India purely to exploit), detaining them for so long rather than putting them on a return flight, is a disproportionate response, exacerbated by the fact that the couple offered to leave one month in at Yarl's Wood. Perhaps the couple sought asylum as a means to at least being allowed in to make their case - tickets and visas don't come cheap - but they did subsequently seem to give up hopes of seeing our sites and offered to leave which whatever their actual motives, HO should have taken up.

However, HO enjoys keeping people in detention indefinitely, whilst subsequently spending millions deporting them in a show of might, even spending our money to persuade judges that foreigners must be removed.  So rather than take up the offer of voluntary departure, HO insisted the couple had to stay until their case was processed - I reckon it helps their statistics to show how fantastically powerful they are which probably makes Theresa May purr!

I'm ashamed to be funding this government. I'm upset that an innocent man died. I'm saddened Bhavisha is grieving without support of friends & family in a strange nation which at best treats people wanting to work without the right papers like hard-core criminals, at worst imprisons tourists. And I'm fuming that Bhavisha is still locked up.

While it's humbling to see other detainees rallying in support of Bhavisha's release, I wonder what kind of life she will have when eventually allowed to return to India - haunted by memories of the last few months of her marriage spent in detention, knowing her husband's death in a stressful situation might have been avoided had he not been trapped; regret that if only they had chosen another country to visit and make memories in; maybe even guilt for obtaining qualifications that have proven to be so expensive.

My sympathies to Pinakin's parents mourning their son's loss without his body to pay last respects to. No doubt they won't be allowed here for his funeral.

Read more in this article from the Independent.

Friday, 24 April 2015

BritCits Divided Family of the Week - Paul & Connie

Paul & Connie

“No one should be punished for something as harmless as loving someone from outside their borders.”

Paul is a British citizen living in Nottingham.  He met his wife, Connie from California, USA when he was pursuing postgraduate studies in response to the economic crash when jobs were scarce.

Now this couple is 6000 miles apart only because of UK’s immigration rules.

Paul is in education – and neither he nor Connie come from rich families.  They feel the £18,600 is an arbitrary barrier serving to punish the poor.   Paul is firm in his belief that this threshold has been erected under false pretence, the notion that immigration is somehow responsible for the myriad economic and social woes besetting the people of the UK is actually a xenophobic smokescreen to confuse the public.

The couple has strived and struggled for the last three years, stuck apart, only seeing each other for a scant few weeks but they know their story is far from the worst.  Families have been thrown asunder, punished for loving each other across petty political borders we uphold.

Paul and his wife have both suffered from depression, each of them undergoing therapy, just trying to survive apart without any certainty of when they will be able to be together.

Recently though they received some good news.  Connie has been successful in obtaining a well-paid job despite the current economic conditions.  So Paul is considering relocating to USA, although this means being away from his own family and friends in the UK, and living in exile from the UK.

BritCits Happy Family of the Week - Oksana


“I am my mother’s only child, my children her only grandkids.  Yet a government official tells us she cannot even come for a visit.”

Oksana is a British citizen who moved to the UK about 15 years ago after meeting her husband. They now have two lovely kids.  The family lives near Edinburgh where Oksana is a full-time mum. She doesn’t work – her husband works full time, earning enough to maintain the family and ensure they have no need to claim any benefits. 

Oksana's mum, at 64 years old, lived alone in Russia.  Oksana is the only child. This is a family very close to each other.  Oksana’s mum has visited the UK in the past, allowing for the much valued bonding between grandparent and grandkids.  However, it had been over six years since she was last here, as the travelling and visa process have become too difficult what with a nine hour flight to Moscow (Russia is huge!) for the visa application.  This made the visit visa refusal the family had in 2013 particularly painful, on grounds of insufficient documentation on finances.

Oksana, with her mum and kids on holiday in Turkey after her UK family visit visa was refused.
The family was bemused and dismayed.  A simple family visit visa was refused after an extremely onerous process, yet six years ago it was issued in one day!  It’s heart wrenching when a government official has the power to decide that close family are not even allowed to visit you.

So the family decided they would prefer to apply for a settlement visa to avoid any future visa hassles, alleviating issues likely to arise in the future given Oksana will need to be there to look after her mum on a daily basis, and travelling becomes more difficult with the process of ageing.

Oksana lives in a large home where her mum would have her own bedroom.  Her mum’s pension from Russia could be transferred to the UK.  The family is happy to purchase private health insurance and also sign a guarantee that there will not be any need to access benefits.  Her mum speaks decent English and has made lots of friends on her earlier visits, so integration is not a problem either.  Yet the settlement visa was also not suited given the incredibly restrictive immigration rules for adult dependant relatives.

Oksana could not abandon her mum - so her family relocated to Malta. They lived there, worked there, enjoyed being together without any interference from the Home Office.  Several months down the line, circumstances changed but luckily the family were able to continue to use their free movement rights to move back to the UK, this time with Oksana's mum in tow.  The family is extremely happy that despite Home Office attempts to break up the family, love prevailed.