Mary Dejevsky in the Independent
BritCits responds below. The following refutation of Dejevsky's piece is by Sonel Mehta, co-founder of BritCits. Sonel tweets at @britcits
The APPG on migration launched their report on 10th June, clearly and fairly setting out where the government is going wrong – from a moral and financial point - when it comes to family immigration. The media has for the most part supported the findings of the committee on the rights of British citizens to be with their non-EU family.
However, Mary Dejevsky chief editorial writer and a columnist at The Independent and according to her employer, one of the “country’s most respected commentators on Russia, EU and US” has taken a different view in her article on 11th June. I welcome a difference of opinion if it’s made in a rational and intelligent manner. It’s only with discussion after all that awareness and education arise. However Mary shows a blatant ignorance of even a basic understanding of immigration rules in the countries for which she is apparently acclaimed. Had her article been published in Daily Mail, I may well have disregarded the poor quality of journalism but perhaps somewhat naively, I expect better from The Independent.
Before I lay into where Mary went wrong, let me be clear that the immigration rules brought in by the Coalition government – unhindered by Labour – are unfair, and detrimental not only to our economy but the moral fabric of our nation. This is not an anti-Tory pro-Labour debate. I’m under no illusions that with a few stellar exceptions, politicians are politicians, whatever party they lay claim to.
Mary states that because a net migration target was part of the Conservative manifesto, the Coalition government is right in doing their best to meet this. She seems to have completely missed the point that such a target is a ridiculous one to have in the first place and that it is part of the manifesto of a party we did not elect into government! Why ridiculous? Because it – by definition – not only actively requires the dis-allowing of non-EU citizens into the country, be they immediate family members of Brits, but also because it encourages the government to look for ways to make UK less desirable for our own citizens. Indeed, she has also missed the part of the Conservative manifesto which promised to be “family-friendly”..why is there support of a government which treats its manifesto like a pick’n’mix feast?
Mary says that non-EU family members of British citizens qualify for "the whole range of state benefits". Perhaps she needs to familiarise herself with the “NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS” which non-EU migrants have so clearly stamped in their foreign passports..leaving the holders ineligible for state benefits i.e. the complete opposite of her statement.
However in saying that in the United States the government has set an income threshold for the sponsoring of spouses and parents, Mary, for a change, is right. What she is not saying, or is unaware of (poor journalism on either count) is that in the US the income threshold is in line with minimum wage. In the UK it is so much higher than minimum wage, that someone working full time could still be way below this level. In the UK, British pensioners living in a mortgage free home with a pension less than £18,600 are being forced to exile or sell up to show the required cash only sum of £62,500 because this government does not recognise the value of bricks and mortar, nor the foreign spouse’s assets and income.
In the US, they encourage the sponsorship of parents of adult citizens at an earlier stage, as long as the citizen has an income which would render them ineligible for benefits – to encourage integration. However, unlike our government, none of the US governments in memorable history has required these parents to be on their death bed before even considering allowing them into the country. Indeed, the Cameron led government deems it such that even if a citizen is earning £100,000 (or more) they cannot have their parents (still with no recourse to public funds), whatever the health, financial and family circumstances of the Brit or their parent, move to the UK. WHATEVER the circumstances. I’m more than happy to be challenged on this.
A basic grasp of English makes clear that the criteria now is so contradictory that it actually cannot be satisfied. Unlike in the US, there is no income criteria attached to the sponsorship of parents..just the parents health to be so dilapidated that they cannot physically get on a plane to reach the UK (see the issue here?). There is no scope for parents of independent means to retire in the UK to be with their children and grandchildren in their twilight years. If you're rich there's no scope for applying, if you're poor you don't qualify. If you're healthy you're not welcome, if you're ill you can't come. Similar applies to the situation of the British sponsor – whether they’re rich or poor, their parents don’t qualify.
Any vestige of respect I could have had for Mary – journalists often work to tight deadlines, perhaps with insufficient time to carry out research – evaporated with the article header and her allowing the use of a photo of what is captioned as being a British family emigrating to Australia.
Family rights being discussed are those of a British citizen’s right to family reunification so the use of the buzzword “immigrant” in the header can only be to foster nods and chants of ‘yes yes’ amongst those who don’t bother to read any further. Also not relevant to her argument of people immigrating to the UK is a photo showing people emigrating. Similar words, very different meaning which the staff of a newspaper of this standing should well know the difference in. Nothing but a shameless attempt to subconsciously influence the readership and further anti-immigration propaganda.
Let’s be clear. Living in your country of nationality is a right not a privilege. Being able to spend your life with your spouse/partner and children is essential to ensuring a healthy future for the individuals, society and the nation as a whole. Slamming the door shut on our parents is not acceptable and disrespectful to those who gave us life. Ten times this when you allow for the fact that all this is with no recourse to public funds.
If this means being labelled the romantic so derided by Mary, I'll wear the tag with flashing lights on. Better that than being heartless or just an incompetent journalist.
A personal response from me, Steve Green :
I fully endorse Sonel's position.
I find this piece to be a very interesting development - the first non-hysterical challenge we've really received in the mainstream media we've seen, as the coverage we've had has been overwhelmingly supportive (see: http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/the-appg-report-is-out-httpwww.html http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/the-appg-report-is-out-part-2-more.html )
I find this very encouraging as it means that the voices of those innocent victims of these genuinely harsh, draconian rules can no longer be ignored. I am encouraged by the quote sometimes attributed (or misattributed, as there's no firm record of him ever saying this) to Gandhi :
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
And another quote of disputed origin :
Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
Contributions from both of us, as well as other supporters of BritCits, are mentioned by our names in the APPG report on family migration :
Further responses from the comments section of the Independent article are below :
The US also allows third party sponsorship so the sponsors other family members can chip in to keep them. THe UK disallowed this so despite the fact I am living with my folks rent free, bills free and they are quite prepared to sign an affidavit to this effect to guarantee that my American wife would not resort to public funds - it's disallowed. Another piece of ill-thought out, cruel and expedient policy from the Coalition. Nobody is asking the state to be responsible but we are askng that laws are applied fairly across the board. The income requirement only applies to British citizens, not Irish, Spanish or other EU passport holders with non-EU Citizens so the Government is actively discriminating against its own citizens with this rule.
I sense something of an ageist undertone here. One group that the rules exclude is older couples where the British sponsor has less income than the current threshold but is asset rich. If a British spouse owns a house outright then a couple can live on a lot less than £18,600 per year. Me and my wife could. We could easily live on my unearned income, but I am obliged to work and earn money we don't need simply to satisfy 'the rules' - because 'rules is rules'. We make no demands on the education system and virtually no demands on the health system - and I make a healthy and growing annual contribution to HMRC. Ultimately, after losing a year of newly-married life, we were among the so-called 'lucky ones', my wife eventually got her visa, but only after a long fight to overturn a refusal because the documentation required was only made clear at the point of refusal. We always satisfied 'the rules'. And now of course my wife is effectively on probation for five long years. First they don't want to let her in, then they restrict how much we can travel abroad and she can visit her family, again because 'rules is rules'. Though irritating these issues are trivial in comparison with the shameful situations in which couples and families are kept apart or brutally separated for the sake of Cameron et al.'s shameful ploys to outmanoeuvre UKIP, not only family policies but policies affecting universities, business and tourism. I fear that Mary Dejevsky actually believes the dodgy Tory propaganda put about this government.
In what sense does this government 'have an electoral mandate' to reduce immigration? Certainly the tories had it in their manifesto, but the Lib Dems weren't explicit. If a Tory party can't beat the dog end of the Gordon Brown government outright, any claim of a mandate is dubious to say the least. The claim that 'others pay' for people to come to this country doesn't stand up. Migrants are far less likely to claim benefits than indigenous types and their contributions towards the public purse are mysteriously ignored in the calculations by the Migration Advisory Committee in drawing up the plans for these rules and by Mary above. The rules also ignore any income to be earned by the incoming spouse - any firm job offer in writing cannot be considered under these rules. As a result these rules create single parents, enforce benefit claims in a significant number of cases and are to the detriment of the British Taxpayer. To take this issue which is primarily one of a rights issue to the reasoning of economics is both ineffective and counter productive for those from Mary's anti-immigration standpoint. Raise your game, please Mary!
I am shocked by the lack of scholarship and research that went into writing this article. The reporter seems to have little idea (or perhaps just doesn't care) about the dangers of false information, and the negative repercussions which can result from it at the national level. As clearly stated by BritCits, non-Eu immigrants coming in on spousal / partner Visa's have absolutely NO access to public support of any kind for 5 LONG YEARS....and yet every day I read about the drain on the tax payer of all these immigrants coming into the country. Having spent the last 12 months separated from my non-EU husband despite earning above the £18,600 threshold and meeting ALL of the ludicrous requirements, it angers me greatly to read such an article, written by some out of touch ignorant woman who has done no research and certainly does not deserve her fee.
This is an awful, poorly researched piece of writing. I cannot state this enough, nobody else is 'paying for it' - non-EU citizens on spouse visas have NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS. Furthermore I, as a British citizen, give up my rights to claim benefits for the five year period until my spouse could be granted indefinite leave to remain, because it would jeopardise his application to stay here. God forbid under unforeseen circumstances, I lose my job. Your figure of £13,700 as the previous threshold is also inaccurate as I do not believe there ever was an officially determined threshold before the new July 2012 rules. Third-party income support was also an option, but now that doesn't count as a 'stable source of income' because obviously, it's highly likely that I'll suddenly wake up one day and sever all contact with my family. As for the last government introducing higher application fees, I believe that under the current coalition government the fee has gone up by almost £500. The fact remains that under these rules, a significant chunk of the population are prevented from getting married to a non-EU citizen if they want to make a future for themselves in the U.K. The threshold does not take into account differences in regional or gender pay. "With apologies to romantics everywhere, I don’t believe that the State has a responsibility to underwrite cross-border love." - Your last sentence was really all you needed to write. Fine, that's your opinion... but it's completely irrelevant.