UK
22/02/2016 07:43 GMT | Updated 22/02/2016 07:59 GMT

Minimum Income Visa Rules Means Child 'Thinks His Dad Is A Phone', Mother Tells Victoria Derbyshire Show

A mother has revealed the heartbreak her family have suffered under Britain's immigration rules, explaining how her toddler thinks his dad "is a phone" due to him being unable to live in the UK.

Speaking on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, a woman named only as Amira, explained how the current rules meant that she was effectively living as a single mother in Britain.

Her plea comes as a number of families are at the Supreme Court today to challenge the government's rules on low income families, such as Amira's.

Amira, a British citizen, left the UK for Syria to marry her husband Ahmed in Damascus. She was able to return and bring her young son with her when violence escalated badly but because Ahmed is Syrian, he was unable to join them.

Under the current rules, amended in 2012, there is a mandatory requirement for a UK sponsor must have a minimum gross annual income of £18,600 before they can invite in partners from non-EEA (European Economic Area) states.

Previous rules only required a couple to demonstrate they could maintain themselves without recourse to public funds.

Amira explained how she was desperate to stay in Syria but made the decision to come to the UK because she did not feel it was fair to bring up her young son in the war-torn country. She left her husband Ahmed behind and is raising her son Jude alone.

Speaking to reporter Divya Talwar, Amira said: ”Ahmed has been watching his son, Jude, grow up on video calls.

"My husband needs a visa and I don't meet the means or requirements to bring him on a spouse visa, I will never earn £18,600 as a single mother.

"I'm trying to find work. I've been trying for a very long time.

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"I wish Ahmed could have come with me but he couldn't come here, because we are not rich enough basically.

"My son has been denied his father. He's missed Jude's first birthday, him crawling, him walking.

"My son is damaged because of this. He thinks a phone is his father, and that's dreadful, that's horrible.”

According to the Press Association, a High Court judge ruled the introduction of the "minimum income requirement (MIR)", which increases if there are children, was an unjustified interference with human rights.

Around 15,000 children are part of “Skype families” - only able to speak to one of their parents over the video chat service - according to the Children's Commissioner for England.

But the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by Home Secretary Theresa May.

Now the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, is to make a final ruling in a number of linked cases.

The Divided Families Campaign says the Home Secretary's policy is "obstructing family reunion for tens of thousands of people".

The case centres on judicial review applications brought by two British citizens, referred to as AM and SJ who cannot meet the requirement and MM, a refugee from the Lebanon in a similar position, and his nephew AF.

In another case, SS, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is challenging a refusal of entry clearance as the spouse of a refugee who became a naturalised British citizen, but whose earnings are below £18,600.

Immigration tribunals allowed her appeal under Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. But the appeal court ruled she had not demonstrated "compelling circumstances" justifying the granting of entry clearance.

High Court judge Mr Justice Blake ruled in the judicial review challenges that the financial requirements set out in rules introduced in July 2012 amounted to a ''disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship''.

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Three appeal judges - Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Aikens and Lord Justice Treacy - disagreed and said the requirements ''are lawful''.

Lord Justice Aikens said in the lead judgment that he was "very conscious of the evidence submitted by the claimants to demonstrate how the new MIR will have an impact on particular groups and, in particular, the evidence that only 301 occupations out of 422 listed in the 2011 UK Earnings data had average annual earnings over £18,600".

But the Home Secretary had analysed the effect of the immigration of non-EEA partners and dependant children on the benefits system and "the link between better income and greater chances of integration", said the judge.

She had "struck a fair balance between the interests of the groups concerned and the community in general.''


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