The Blog

Why I'm Supporting the Divided Families Campaign

The law essentially means that working class Brits are banned from marrying (non-EU) foreigners. Yes, you read that correctly. Almost half of the UK population has been stripped of its right to family life.

Imagine if you were woken up in the middle of the night by government officials banging on your door saying they had come to take your partner away from you. The reason? You earn less than £18,600 per year.

This is not precisely how it happened, but it gives the uninitiated an idea of how thousands of Brits in love with non-EU citizens would have felt like on July 9, 2012, when the government introduced the new family migration rules.

These stipulated that a British person must earn £18,600 to sponsor a foreign spouse from outside the EU to stay with them in the UK. If they have a child, the figure rises to £22,400 plus an additional £2,400 for every child after that.

Up until these rules were introduced, I never thought politics would affect me much. Sure, I'd studied it as part of my degree in an abstract fashion and knew all the latest developments on the political scene from my keen interest in the news. Policy after policy was churned out, none of them changing my life in any observably significant way. I even managed to avoid the tuition fee hike, being one of the last fortunate group of students to pay the lower fees.

But when these rules came in, my life was changed forever. The person I had fallen in love with at university and was hoping to make a life with after graduation would have to be taken away from me.

As a student living on a loan, I had no way of meeting the financial requirement. The only way to do so would be to sacrifice my dream career in journalism (which requires the completion of postgraduate study) and apply for a lucrative graduate scheme. This would indeed satisfy the income requirement, but it would involve giving up on my passion for journalism and force me into a career I wouldn't be satisfied with for probably the rest of my life.

There are thousands of others affected by these rules, too. For privacy's sake I can't name people, but I know of one girl who couldn't be with her boyfriend even when he was suffering from depression and needed her most.

There are also couples with children who are being forced to live in separate countries from one another until they find a way to get around these harsh rules.

I almost cried with laughter last Tuesday when I read that David Cameron, on a trip to Kazakhstan, told schoolchildren about how he was missing his wife.

"I haven't seen my wife for several days now and I miss her desperately," he said.

Several days. Try several months, or even years of enforced separation, Mr Cameron, and then I'll take your use of the word "desperately" seriously.

All this misery has been caused in aid of fulfiling the Conservative's manifesto pledge of reducing net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. But even if some argue that immigration reduction may be a desirable goal, these policies are targeting the wrong people.

The law essentially means that working class Brits are banned from marrying (non-EU) foreigners. Yes, you read that correctly. Almost half of the UK population has been stripped of its right to family life.

This is a right enshrined in the Human Rights Act of 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights, not to mention the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Rights must apply to everybody, but isn't it interesting that arguments about the rights of radical Islamist preacher Abu Qatada have received far more discussion in the media than the rights of the estimated 18,000 people expected to be affected by these rules.

Steven Green of BritCits, a group campaigning against the rules, told me:

"These rules are an attack on the rights of migrant communities. But they are also an attack on British citizens' rights. The right to fall in love, to marry and settle with whom you choose. The right of children to be with their parents, the right of people to be with their loved ones. Maybe more important than rights, they represent an attack on our values; the value of family, the value of marriage, the value of childhood itself."

At Warwick University from which I recently graduated, nearly one-fifth of all students are internationals. It is quite frankly absurd and inhumane to effectively ban British students from falling in love with someone without checking if they possess a British or EU passport first.

The Conservatives frequently bang on about the importance of integration, such as the recent demand that non-native speakers be forced to attend English classes in order to qualify for benefits. But one of the surest roads to integration is having friendships - and perhaps even relationships - with British people. All the new immigration rules do is divide foreigners from Brits and encourage a fragmented society.

Almost everyone I've spoken to affected by these rules has undergone some form of emotional distress. Some have been prescribed medication. These emotional effects are not quantifiable like the government's net migration targets. Rather, they manifest themselves only in lonely bedrooms in the middle of the night when you wake up from that dream in which these rules were never introduced, crying and pining for the one you love - all for the sake of £18,600 per year.

The Divided Families Campaign is organised by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, BritCits, Migrants Rights Network and the Family Immigration Alliance. A protest will be held on July 9th 2013 at 4pm outside the Home Office in London. Join us!