“My crime - I fell in love and exercised my right to do so.”
Maliha is a British citizen who met her now husband, Bilal, in March 2011, in Dubai.
Maliha was in Dubai for work, and in the process met Bilal through mutual friends. Almost instantly, as in the movies, love blossomed.
Maliha was initially concerned about the 6 year age gap - Bilal is younger than she is - but Bilal was so "with it" and mature, that this concern quickly faded. She extended her time in Dubai to continue to be with Bilal.
However, commitments intervened and Maliha ever too soon had to return to the UK.
They kept in touch through Skype, whatsapp and Facebook and spent countless hours talking over the phone. Each minute apart was like a life sentence.
Maliha returned to Dubai in July 2011 to spend more time with Bilal. They had an amazing three weeks together. However, the double impact of the Middle Eastern summer combined with the constant exposure o air conditioning to escape from the heat wreaked havoc with Maliha’s asthma, and so she was forced to return to the UK.
Both Maliha and Bilal spoke to their families about their love and desire to be married. Both their families were against the relationship, for various reasons, including their different cultural backgrounds – Bilal is a Pathan and Maliha a grandchild of an Indian migrant who moved to Pakistan during the India-Pakistan partition. Yes a reason that seems nonsensical to many of our generation, but one nonetheless that their families held (and incidentally, one that this government appears to also uphold given the £18,600 - £62,500 price on love they have put!).
Maliha and Bilal – in a modern Romeo & Juliet – continued their love affair in secret; in May 2012 they decided enough was enough and so decided to elope. "Oh the shame" said their parents; however, presented with a marriage certificate they had no choice but to accept the relationship which had been recognised both by religious leaders and the government.
Bizarrely, Bilal – holding a good job in Dubai - was refused a visit visa to the UK. The couple since have been caught in the £18,600 net, due to missing the application deadling by a measly six days.
Maliha has never claimed welfare benefits – indeed, not even the ones she has been entitled to. The "no recourse to public funds" rule from day one suits her just fine as she believes there are more needy people who deserve benefits. However, she deserves to spend her life in the same country as the person she loves.
To Maliha, being in the UK is important. It’s where her parents are – it’s where her mum who is disabled is. It’s where her friends, family, life are. It’s where her home is.
Given she doesn’t claim benefits herself, given her spouse would not qualify for any benefits, she
can’t help but wonder why the ridiculously high financial requirement? In today’s financial climate this new law is only an excuse to put people down and screams of a class system.
All she wants is to have a proper married life with her husband. To be with him.
What will the end for this modern day Romeo and Juliet be? If David Cameron has his way, this love story will also end in tragedy.