10 July 2012

The rules of love

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Emily Churchill, a young graduate having to live away from her Palestinian husband because of current visa rules, told her story to a meeting at the Houses of Parliament.

Emily described her “horrible, lonely, unsettling” experience whilst living away from her Palestinian husband for a year. She said the experience left her feeling “powerless” at a meeting held by the Migrant’s Rights Network and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants on the day new visa regulations were introduced.

She also shared her friend Liz Farrow’s emotional story of giving birth to her twins that very day with the father of her children thousands of miles away in Yemen due to a refused visa, highlighting the Home Office’s anti-family laws.

The new rules include an income requirement of £18,600 for people wishing to sponsor a partner to come to the UK, which will prevent many thousands of people from exercising their right to a family life.

The Migrants’ Rights Network and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants hosted an event launching a campaign against the new family migration rules on the day they came into effect.

Lord Judd questioned whether it was fair for the act of marrying a non-European to be merely a perk reserved for the rich.

Don Flynn, MRN director, said this was a “political issue…with no fairness, social justice or equality” given that 47% of the UK population were earning less than £18,600. He highlighted that with women earning on average 16% less than men, the new family migration rules will hit females disproportionately. Young people earning less will also be hit hard, as well as ethnic groups – most significantly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said it was “grossly unfair” that a “rich man can marry whoever wanted, but if you are poor, you must either be celibate for life or join a priesthood because you can’t live with your spouse.” He also expressed his disappointment at how in this country, when things go wrong, we always reach for immigration.

Virendra Sharma MP, who himself was sponsored to come to the UK by his wife 45 years ago, said that this would not have been possible under current rules and that we should continue to put pressure on the government to change this policy.

Jeremy Corbyn MP said the new policy was short-sighted and pointed out that the underlying narrative in British politics was that immigration was always being seen as a problem or a danger, despite Britain being a dependent beneficiary of immigration. He said: “We are going to change the tide, we are going to change the law, we are going to change the rules.”

Binita Mehta

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