London Stories: Made by Migrants

Battersea Arts has put a call out for participation in London Stories: Made by Migrants. BAC is looking for stories of people who have migrated to London for any reason — because they are looking for a better life, because they have a job there or are looking for a job there, because they are escaping from war or persecution, or because they have fallen in love with someone who lives there.

It is open to people from all backgrounds and of all ages — no experience necessary, as long as you are prepared to tell your own story in an authentic and natural way. The stories will form part of a festival in November, and even if you won’t be able to make it in person but still want to share your story, there will be a way to still be part of the festival.

More information and an application pack are available at https://www.bac.org.uk/content/42052/create_with_us/call_out__london_stories/call_out__london_stories_made_by_migrants

4th Anniversary

Tonight, on the fourth anniversary of the Rules, we send love to all those spending this day without the people they are meant to be with.

Love Letters to the Home Office in Leeds

Love Letters to the Home Office will be performed as a rehearsed reading at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds on 14 July at 7.30pm.

The play (performed as a rehearsed reading) documents the human and economic cost of the policy and directly challenges politicians to justify it. In the wake of the recent referendum vote and the anti-immigrant backlash seen in recent weeks, Love Letters To The Home Office aims to add to the pressure from separated families, human rights campaigners, and some politicians, including the Green Party, to overturn the destructive rules.

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees the right to family life, but changes to the immigration rules in July 2012 restricted that right to the better-off only: British residents would be prevented from living with their partners from overseas unless they could show they earned at least £18,600 per annum, and much more if they also have foreign children.

Williams Radojičić is a theatre lighting designer and campaigner for migrants’ rights who was herself affected by the new rules in a two-year effort to bring her husband to the UK from Montenegro. She said:

“When we created the book, we did so in the knowledge that the Rules need to change.

“The government continues to ignore the issue, which means that with every day that passes women are forced to give birth on their own, with their husbands and partners not allowed to be with them, children are growing up only seeing a parent on Skype, and family members are exiled from their loved ones in the UK.

“The Rules mean that those who earn less than £18,600 per year have different human rights to the rest of the UK. The figure jumps to £22,400 if you have a child, and jumps higher again with each child you have. Because the Rules only affect British citizens who are married to those outside the EU, it has been widely under-reported and misreported. The biggest misrepresentation is (surprise, surprise) the suggestion that our family members will ‘come here to claim benefits’. This is simply not true: every family member granted a visa has NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS stamped in it. This was true before the Rule change, and it is exactly the same after the Rule change.

“Creating this theatre event gives us a very real opportunity to share the impact of the 2012 Family Migration Rules with a wider audience than the book has reached so far: a very politicised audience, whose own voices can make an impact on the decisions being made at a governmental level about this issue, right now, so that no more families are separated for no reason other than their income.”

 

Free tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/love-letters-to-the-home-office-leeds-tickets-26414022051.

UK EU Referendum

A short statement from the Love Letters to the Home Office project about the EU Referendum:

Love Letters to the Home Office exists purely because the UK Government’s 2012 Family Migration Rules gives British Citizens different levels of Human Rights purely based on how much they earn.

British Citizens Human Rights are reduced, based on their earnings.

Some British Citizens have been able to use their Rights as EU Citizens to keep their families together.

Thus, membership of the EU means that each British Citizen has, by law, more Human Rights if we Remain In the EU.

Parliament to debate settlement income requirement

The government announced in February that non-EU citizens who have been working and living in the UK for 5 or more years must now meet a £35,000 minimum income requirement to be able to remain in the country. While this doesn’t change the income requirements for Family Migration, it does vastly expand the government’s push to tie immigration to wealth, and will affect a wide variety of students, educators, and skilled workers across the country, many who have likely now established families of their own. What becomes of children born as UK citizens when their parents cannot stay?

The announcement swiftly was swiftly met with a petition to scrap the requirement, which received over 100,000 signatures and so has compelled Parliament to debate the topic. An email today has announced the debate will be held Monday, 7 March at 4.30pm.

In that email the petitions committee has invited input and feedback to help inform the debate. They say:

In particular, we would like to know:

  • How will the £35,000 income threshold for non-EU citizens settling in the UK affect you?
  • Is the introduction of the income threshold affecting your future plans?
  • How will the introduction of the income threshold affect your business, your workplace and/or your community?

The deadline for comments to be considered in the debate is midnight on Thursday 3 March 2016.

This is super short notice! They are encouraging commentary on the UK Parliament Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/ukparliament/

You can also contact your local MP directly tell them why this debate is important to you and suggest any points you would like them to raise. Find out who your MP is and how to contact them here.

You can watch the debate live on Parliament TV: http://parliamentlive.tv/

A big week in history

borrowed from bbc.co.ukSo much going on! The EU and David Cameron reached a deal this week which would see a number of key facets of the European law amended to allow the UK a more distinct position within the federation of member states. The EU published the full text of that agreement in a press release Friday.

It’s notable that two of Cameron’s requests weren’t included at all: the ability to oust people who haven’t found a job in six months, and a requirement for jobseekers to have a job offer before entering the country. Neither, apparently, were possible under current EU treaty, and it’s some small consolation that the deal is not a complete capitulation to the UK demands.

However, apparently most of the language regarding changes to the free movement rules has stayed intact from the draft documents, which we looked at in some depth earlier this month. Steve Peers has done a comprehensive opinion piece on the immigration elements of the final deal, to which I can’t possibly add, but specifically relevant is this:

The amendments will exclude two separate categories of non-EU citizens from the scope of the citizens’ Directive: those who did not have prior lawful residence in a Member State before marrying an EU citizen who has moved to another Member State; and those who marry such an EU citizen after he or she has moved to a Member State. For these people, national immigration law will apply.

(emphasis mine.) It reads as if a non-EU spouse would need to establish legal residence in an EU country before marrying an UK citizen, but that the marriage needs to happen before the UK citizen moves to that third country. It’s messy, and as Peers says,

the planned legislative changes will complicate the plans of people who wish to move to another Member State with their non-EU family and then move back, since national immigration law will apply to their move to the hostMember State.

In plainer words: as feared, it looks like the Surinder Singh path will become more difficult. But as Peers also examines, there are a lot of things still open to interpretation, possibly by the courts, and the SS door seems not fully closed.

Acceptance of these changes is of course contingent on the UK agreeing to stay in the EU at all, which of course was another big development this week: Cameron officially set a June 23 date for an “in or out” referendum.

We have an idea what a vote to stay may mean for immigration policy. We have no idea at all what an exit may bring. Some are actually arguing EU free movement is hindering a fair immigration system…though I personally find it hard to believe Theresa May will suddenly change her tune should a separation occur. It’s not hard to imagine this being the biggest democratic event of our lifetimes; if you are able to vote, please take the time to form a considered opinion and express it.

And while all this is going on, we mustn’t forget that this week the Supreme Court hears appeals on two cases testing the basic legality of the income restriction. The outcome of these rulings could in fact have influence on the way the EU deal plays out. Should the income requirement be ruled disproportionately interfering with the ECHR Article 8 right to a family life, the whole game changes for people bringing family to the UK, regardless of Cameron’s EU deal.

Years from now, looking back at the course of UK history, it’s easy to imagine how the week or so surrounding today will be seen as a turning point. But which way will things turn?

Things to remember:
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Comment: EU draft revision to free movement rules

David Cameron’s negotiations with the EU have been all over the news these last few days, with a lot of focus on Donald Tusk’s response to his key demand for a 4-year ban on in-work benefits for EU migrants.
While the European Council has proposed a compromise which many are calling a defeat for Cameron, there are other, less noticed, concessions in proposed changes to the free movement laws (pdf), which could have a direct bearing on the ability of UK citizens to bring their non-EU family home.
Steven at BritCits has done an initial analysis in his blog post here, and explores his understanding of the changes, focusing on two key statements:
  1. “The Commission intends to adopt a proposal to complement Directive 2004/38 on free movement of Union citizens in order to exclude, from the scope of free movement rights, third country nationals who had no prior lawful residence in a Member State before marrying a Union citizen or who marry a Union citizen only after the Union citizen has established residence in the host Member State. Accordingly, in such cases, the host Member State’s immigration law will apply to the third country national. ”
  2. “Member States can address specific cases of abuse of free movement rights by Union citizens returning to their Member State of nationality with a non-EU family member where residence in the host Member State has not been sufficiently genuine to create or strengthen family life and had the purpose of evading the application of national immigration rules.” 
Combined, these statements seem to dramatically change the landscape for those seeking to gain a family residence permit living in Europe and then follow the Surinder Singh path to the UK. The first point is a bit of a tangle but seems to suggest that under this proposal, to exercise free-movement rights, a non-EU partner needs to either
  1. establish independent residency, on their own merit, in the EU country before getting married to an UK citizen, or
  2. once married, the UK partner may be able to gain residence in a third EU country and meet that country’s requirements to sponsor a family member. (I admit, based on the wording I find this scenario pretty unclear)
In short, the proposal seems specifically targeted at closing the option of moving to an EU country with less restrictive rules than the UK, getting married, and then applying for a family permit.
The second part of the proposal is I think even fuzzier, as there is no way to objectively quantify “sufficiently genuine.” It goes beyond proving your relationship is “real” into forcing people to prove the underlying motivation of having moved abroad in the first place, and leaves the decision open to a completely subjective opinion.
Full information on the EU proposals is available here. It is  just a draft proposal, and it may yet change, but it is important that people know what is on the table. As it stands it would appear that Surinder Singh would still be possible, but could be significantly harder. It’s not clear how non-spouse family would be affected, and as Steven points out in the BritCits newsletter, these proposals raise more questions than they answer. There is far more that we don’t know about what the impacts might be than what we do know right now.
There are some things you can do, right now, though:
image credit : dailymail.co.uk, thank you!

Two key court cases coming in February 2016

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals in not one but two important cases relating to the minimum income rules.
The case known as MM (Lebanon) is the one we were all watching keenly last year as the Home Office appealed an earlier ruling which declared the income rules in violation of EU Human Rights Law. That appeal what disappointingly upheld (here is an in-depth analysis of the ruling), but the court has given permission to further appeal, with hearings before the court happening Feb 22-24th, 2016.
The court has also agreed to hear an appeal on a related second case,  SS (Congo) & Others at the same time.
Quoting 43templerow, the legal firm representing many of the plaintiffs:

“The case of MM deals with whether the rules are so harsh that they represent an inherently disproportionate interference in the right to a family life under Article 8 ECHR, or alternatively that they are lawful because the Secretary of State or a tribunal can allow cases on a discretionary basis even where the rules are not met. The case of SS looks at the width of that second stage – Theresa May arguing that consequences such as those identified […] by the Children’s Commissioner are simply not good enough to qualify as an exception.”

Either case could prove a vital turning point in the struggle for thousands of families affected by the minimum income ryules. As 43templerow says,

“The decision of the Supreme Court is likely to be the most significant human rights cases it has decided in years: in legal terms the extent to which government policy can determine the outcome of assessments of proportionality in Article 8, and in human terms by the tens of thousands of people’s lives it will affect.”

BritCits is inviting people who are able to come to the Supreme Court to attend the hearings as audience in the gallery. The hearings are public, people are welcome to attend, and entrance is free.
They say,

“The more people who are seen in the gallery the more public interest this case will generate, and it also shows the judges the people directly affected by these rules – we’re not just Home Office statistics.

For those who cannot attend the hearing should be broadcast live at https://www.supremecourt.uk/ but again, please do attend if you can – all three days or just part of one day. Your presence does make a difference.”

Britcits has created a Facebook event here https://www.facebook.com/events/1677104912566231/
The live broadcast should be here https://www.supremecourt.uk/
And on twitter you can follow the hashtag #MMCase – http://twitter.com/hashtag/MMCase

Media Opportunity: Documentary

We have been contacted by Pernel Media who are making a documentary about the Rules and how they affect families.  They are looking for families to work with in run up to Christmas: showing how family life works when your family is divided by the Rules.  We understand that the team would spend a day or two a week over the course of six weeks.

This seems like a great opportunity to educate the British public on the impact of the Rules, and particularly on children.  They are looking for couples affected and also for families with children who are divided, or perhaps about to spend a last Christmas together and don’t know when they will be reunited.

Here’s the info.  Do contact Emma directly:

Is your family torn apart by new UK visa requirements? Is your spouse/ partner from outside of the EU refused a visa as you can’t afford financial criteria?

If this is you or someone you know Pernel Media want to hear from you. We are making a documentary for a major British channel telling the stories of people whose families are separated by UK immigration rules.

If you are interested in sharing your story please contact Emma at Pernel Media
emmap@pernelmedia.tv or call/ text 07960 485372

https://www.facebook.com/Immigration-Documentary-502796613214079